Notorious American Crime Chronicles: Visiting Scenes of the Crimes

This article #3 of CleverJourneys ongoing series exploring American history from a perspective that burrows deep into criminal profiles, the penal system, victim’s stories, crime prevention, forensic science, law enforcement and our justice system.

My father, Walter Dennis, was a police officer and homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s. Later, he was a U.S. Marshal and worked on the assassination of federal Judge John Woods.

Dad would often take me to the locations of some of his cases. He’d explain what happened, pointing me to the clues, structures and surroundings of the crime scenes. He taught me the science and art of profiling.

It’s no wonder I later became the youngest licensed private investigator in Texas in 1976, and worked on many crime cases.

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Some of the more notorious sites I’ve checked out include assassination locations such as Dealey Plaza, Ford Theater, and Ambassador Hotel (JFK, Lincoln and RFK).

Horror houses I’ve visited include Amityville, Sharon Tate (Manson murders), Nicole Brown Simpson (Bundy Drive), Erik and Lyle Melendez (parents murders), Phil Spector (murder of Lana Clarkson), Bugsy Siegel, Phil Hartman, and Dorothy Stratten.

Death locations include Vitello’s Italian Restaurant (Bonnie Lee Bakley, Robert Blake), Sam Cooke, Selena, Marvin Gaye, Sal Mineo, Rebecca Schaeffer, and William Frawley.

Historical locations like the OK Corral in Tombstone, Colorado’s Woodland Park RV Park (arrest site of “Texas 7” escapees), Killeen Luby’s (massacre site on October 16, 1991, by George Hennard) and ‘The Butcher of Elmendorf’ Joe Ball site (killed women, fed bodies to his alligators) are just some of a long list I’ve checked off.

More recently, Dodie and I visited the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas and the ambush site of Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana.

From my Bonnie & Clyde archive.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

3 thoughts on “Notorious American Crime Chronicles: Visiting Scenes of the Crimes

  1. Good read. Back in the 70s there was a sideshow at the State Fair that had the Bonnie and Clyde death car on display. It was most likely a fake, but a good one. The alligator lady was also pretty cool. What is the Elmendorf killer? Is that in San Antonio?

    Liked by 2 people

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