Southern California can be called a sunny place for shady people. Its criminal history is as rich and varied as anywhere. Old West outlaws, serial killers, gangsters and thieves have all robbed, raided, killed and died south of Sacramento. Home to the movie business, Los Angeles has long been a place of bright lights and dark deeds.
Major Raymond Lisenba, California’s last man to hang, committed murder-by-rattlesnake. Fueled by a half-pint of illegal whiskey, Dallas Egan danced his way to the gallows. Yacht Bandit Lloyd Sampsell cruised California’s coast like a latter-day buccaneer, only visiting dry land for another robbery. Joaquin Murieta terrorized the goldfields and Southern California, entering Californian history and folklore in the process.
Billy Cook entered popular culture (and San Quentin’s gas chamber), inspiring The Doors’ Riders on the Storm and classic film The Hitcher. James Rabbit Kendrick’s execution inspired friend and fellow-convict Merle Haggard to go straight. Haggard immortalized Kendrick with country classic Sing Me Back Home.
Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California’s chronicles of crime.