Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sabotage: The Downing of Flight 629

The Passengers

In the meantime, agents from the Denver FBI office were dispatched to Stapleton where they succeeded in obtaining a flight manifest. The list showed that the 44 passengers and crew were from all over the nation. Though most of the bodies were mangled and burned, identification was quickly ascertained in nine cases by friends or personal papers. The remaining 35 were fingerprinted. When a search was conducted through FBI files, 21 of those were subsequently identified. Eventually, all others were identified through visual inspection by family members.

Jacqueline Hinds, stewardess
Jacqueline Hinds,
stewardess

The youngest person to die in the crash was an infant named James Fitzpatrick. His father was a soldier stationed in Okinawa who had not seen his son since he was 6 weeks old. "Fitzpatrick never will see his lively Jimmy again," said lead story in the Denver Post the next day. "The boy died Tuesday night, at the age of 18 months in the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 629 east of Longmont. He died in his mother's arms, probably still sleeping." It was the first, and last, flight of his young life.

Passengers included a young couple who were celebrating their first wedding anniversary, four Washington state officials, several vacationing stewardesses, the wife of an administrative assistant to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Denver business owner who was on her way to Alaska and two top executives for Oldsmobile. Working on the theory that a disgruntled or recently fired United employee was the culprit, the FBI began an exhaustive investigation into the backgrounds of every passenger. Agents were dispatched to dozens of cities around the country to interview relatives and friends of the victims. Special attention was also paid to anyone with ties to the government.

Airline insurance vending machine
Airline insurance vending
machine

Part of the investigative process was to check the insurance coverage of all passengers and the cargo on board flight 629. It was discovered that several passengers had large life insurance policies that were purchased shortly before flight time. During the 1950s, airline passengers could purchase flight insurance in coin-operated machines available at almost any American airport. Six passengers had the maximum allowed at that time: $62,000, four had $50,000 and two had $37,500. Agents checked into each of these purchases and recorded the names of all beneficiaries.

John Graham
John Graham

In the meantime, the work at the crash site continued around the clock. When recovered items were brought back to the storage hangar at Stapleton, agents took notice of the personal effects belonging to a Denver businesswoman. Her name was Daisie King, 53, on her way to Alaska to visit a married daughter. The recovered property included traveler's checks, letters and newspaper clippings that were found in King's handbag. The clippings contained information about King's son, who had been arrested on a forgery charge in Denver in 1951. When agents checked further, they discovered that King carried $37,500 in insurance with her son listed as the sole beneficiary. Also upon her death, the son would inherit a substantial estate including a successful Denver restaurant. Investigators then made an inquiry with the local police and learned of an interesting coincidence. In early 1955, a suspicious explosion had damaged this same restaurant. A claim was submitted to an insurance company, which was later paid to King's son.

His name was John Gilbert Graham, but everyone called him Jack.

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