John Gilbert Graham was a mass murderer who killed 44 people by planting a dynamite bomb in his own mother’s suitcase that was subsequently loaded aboard United Airlines Flight 629.
An Explosion Over The Sugar Beet Fields
Flight 629 was utilizing a Douglas DC-6B airliner that took off from Denver, Colorado’s Stapleton Airport, bound for Portland, Oregon with continuing service to Seattle, Washington, on the evening of November 1, 1955. The flight had originated at New York City’s Idlewild Airport, making a stop in Chicago before continuing to Denver.
The pilot was Lee Hall, a World War II veteran. Minutes after the plane’s departure from Denver, the DC-6B exploded and the flaming wreckage fell to earth over tracts of farmland and sugar beet fields near Longmont, Colorado. There were no survivors.
The Motive of John Gilbert Graham
John Gilbert Graham’s mother, Mrs. Daisie King, was a passenger, who was traveling to Alaska to visit her daughter. Initially, it was believed that Graham’s motive for the bombing was to claim $37,500 worth of life insurance money, from policies Graham had purchased in the airport terminal just before the aircraft’s departure (flight insurance could be routinely purchased in vending machines at airports during the 1950’s). Graham’s true motive was revenge for the way his mother had treated him as a small child.
The Trial and Execution of John Gilbert Graham
The trial that followed resulted in Colorado becoming the first state to officially sanction the use of television cameras to broadcast criminal trials.
John Gilbert Graham was executed by lethal gas in the Colorado State Penitentiary gas chamber, at Cañon City, Colorado, on January 11, 1957.
In 2005, a book about the Graham case was published on the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing: Mainliner Denver: The Bombing of Flight 629 by Andrew J. Field
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