Mass Murder In the Sky: John Gilbert Graham and United Flight 629

At 6:52 p.m. on Nov. 1, 1955, United Airlines Flight 629, with 44 people aboard, took off from Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado, bound for Portland, Oregon. A mere 11 minutes later, the 39 passengers and five crew members were dead. Among them was the wife an an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Upon learning of the disaster, the FBI immediately offered their services in identifying the victims. Fingerprint experts were dispatched from Washington, DC, and the bodies recovered from the crash were taken to a temporary morgue set up at the National Guard Armory in Greeley, Colo. An active investigation was undertaken by the FBI and it was determined that a bomb had been placed in luggage loaded aboard the aircraft. Eventually, the FBI looked at passengers who had purchased life insurance just before boarding the flight and discovered that Daisie Eldora King, a Denver businesswoman who was en route to Alaska to visit her daughter, was the only passenger who had purchased life insurance at the airport. When agents identified her handbag, they found a number of newspaper clippings containing information about King's son, John Gilbert Graham, who had been arrested on a forgery charge in Denver in 1951. Graham, who held a grudge against his mother for placing him in an orphanage as a child, was the beneficiary on both her life insurance policy and her will. Agents searched Graham’s house and car, and in the garage they found bomb making materials. Further investigation disclosed that Graham had wrapped a “present” for his mother on the morning of her flight. Graham was arrested, charged with murder, and later confessed. He was convicted and, after a few short delays, was executed in the gas chamber on Jan. 11, 1957.