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As The ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ Dies, a Look at Criminals Who Evaded Justice

Some evaded justice for a short while. Others have never been found.

History By

Oskar Groening

Oskar Groening’s trial was one of the Holocaust’s last. The former Nazi guard, known as “the bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” denied being an accomplice to mass genocide, despite acknowledging his role in taking money and valuables from the luggage of the murdered and sending it back to SS headquarters in Berlin. The BBC reports that ex-Nazis evaded justice for decades — Groening included — but in late 2016 at the age 95, he was finally convicted of being an accessory to murder. He died in a hospital on Friday at the age of 96 before he was able to serve any of his 4-year sentence in prison.

Defendant and German former SS officer Oskar Groening, 94, dubbed the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” sits on July 1, 2015, at the courtroom at the ‘Ritterakademie’ venue in Lueneburg, northern Germany ahead of his trial. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty)

Billy the Kid

You probably wouldn’t have guessed that The Kid’s real name is Henry McCarty, but here we are. Born in New York City and orphaned at the age of 15, the American Old West outlaw is known to have killed eight men during his legendary run as a gunslinger — though lore says that number could be somewhere near 21. Arrested and sentenced to death for the 1880 killing of Sheriff Brady, Billy murdered his guards and was able to walk away — at least for a while. Sheriff Pat Garrett ultimately hunted him down, shooting and killing the sandy-haired, blue-eyed fugitive on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Billy the Kid (William Bonney, 1859-1881) ‘Reward for the capture, dead or alive, of one of Wm. Wright, better known as “Billy the kid” Age 18. Height, 5 feet, 3 inches. Weight, 125 lbs. Light hair, blue eyes and even features. He is the leader of the worst band of desperadoes the Territory has ever had to deal with. The above reward will be paid for his capture or positive proof of his death. Jim Dalton, Sheriff’. Typographic poster, Unites States of America, approx. 1877 (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).

D.B. Cooper

This cold case is the only unsolved commercial hijacking in history, but if you were around in 1971, you remember it clearly. The day before Thanksgiving, a man calling himself D.B. Cooper hauled a bomb onto a plane in Oregon and showed it to the flight attendant in mid-air. Letting the passengers exit the aircraft in Seattle, Cooper demanded $200,000 and four parachutes in exchange. When the plane took off again, he leaped out into the woods between Washington and Oregon with cash strapped to his body — and hasn’t been seen since. 

FBI sketch of hijacker D.B. Cooper who commandeered a Northwest Airlines jet, parachuted out over the forests of Washington State w. $200, 000 (obtained from a bomb threat) & simply disappeared. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Fbi/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Boston Corbett

President Abraham Lincoln’s avenger was an unsuspecting one, as soldier Boston Corbett didn’t follow the orders he was given. John Wilkes Booth was supposed to be taken alive when Union Army vets found him in Port Royal, Virginia, as it was unclear what his motives for killing the president were; it was even possible that the hit was ordered by Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

So it was important, 12 days after Lincoln was shot and Booth nursed his broken leg, that the troops surrounding his hiding place coaxed him out and took him alive. But Corbett didn’t wait; after a fire was lit to usher Booth out of the barn he was holed up in, the soldier caught a glimpse of his opponent’s gun, and fired. Booth was hit and died hours later; Corbett was immediately set to Washington to be questioned. Ultimately, he was spared a court-martial.

Boston Corbett, the Library of Congress.

The Zodiac Killer

The crimes of the Zodiac killer have inspired enough ghost stories, novels and thrillers to keep you up at night for the rest of your life — especially with the knowledge that the real-life murderer has never been caught. Made famous for the cryptic and threatening code-littered letters he sent to newspapers, he killed five and injured two others during his streak of terror throughout Northern California in the late ’60s and early ’70s. There are still people today fervently searching for his true identity, though it’s likely he’s now deceased.

A composite sketch of the Zodiac Killer. (Wikipedia)