On January 29, 1979, Brenda Spencer kills two men and wounds nine children as they enter the Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. Spencer blazed away with rifle shots from her home directly across the street from the school. After 20 minutes of shooting, police surrounded Spencer's home for six hours before she surrendered. Asked for some explanation for the attack, Spencer allegedly said, "I just don't like Mondays. I did this because it's a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays."
On January 28, 1958, Charles Starkweather, a high-school dropout from Lincoln, Nebraska, and his teenage girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, kill a Lincoln businessman, his wife and their maid, as part of a murderous crime spree that began a week earlier and would ultimately leave 11 people dead. The killer couple’s deadly road trip, which generated enormous media attention and a massive manhunt, came to an end the following day, when Starkweather and Fugate were arrested near Douglas, Wyoming.
On January 27, 1978, Richard Chase, who becomes known as the "Dracula Killer," murders Evelyn Miroth and Daniel Meredith, as well as Miroth's 6-year-old son and another woman, in Sacramento, California. Chase sexually assaulted Miroth with a knife before killing her and mutilating her body.
On January 25, 1981, Jiang Qing, the widow of Chinese leader Mao Zedong, is sentenced to death for her "counter-revolutionary crimes" during the Cultural Revolution. Originally an actress in Communist theater and film, her marriage to Mao in 1939 was widely criticized, as his second wife, Ho Zizhen, was a celebrated veteran of the Long March who Mao had divorced while she lay languishing in a Moscow hospital. His first wife, Yang Kaihui, was killed by the Nationalists during the Chinese Civil War.
On January 23, 1991, Darrell Lunsford, a county constable in Garrison, Texas was killed after pulling over a traffic violator. His murder was remarkable because it was captured on a camera set up in Lunsford's patrol vehicle. The videotape evidence led to the conviction of the three men who beat, kicked, and stabbed the officer to death along the East Texas highway.
On January 22, 1998, Theodore J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to all federal charges against him and acknowledges his responsibility for a 17-year campaign of package bombings attributed to the "Unabomber." Born in 1942, Kaczynski attended Harvard University and received a PhD in mathematics from the University of Michigan.
On January 21, 1959, Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who as a child played "Alfalfa" in the Our Gang comedy film series, dies at age 31 in a fight, allegedly about money, in a Mission Hills, California, home. Alfalfa, the freckle-faced boy with a warbling singing voice and a cowlick protruding from the top of his head, was Switzer's best-known role.