What happened on this day in history: Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor, the first execution by lethal injection takes place, and more from December 7th.
1598: Gian Lorenzo Bernini Is Born
Famed sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini is born in Naples, Italy. Bernini has been called the Shakespeare of sculpture, and he designed many churches and buildings that are still standing today. Some of his most famous works include Apollo and Daphne and The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, while he’s also credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As an architect, he designed Piazza San Pietro, the famous plaza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
1842: Madame LaLaurie Dies
New Orleans socialite and serial killer Madame Delphine LaLaurie dies in Paris, France, under circumstances that remain unclear to this day. LaLaurie had spent her life in New Orleans, but ultimately fled to Paris after it was discovered that she’d been torturing and murdering untold numbers of enslaved people in her home.
When responding to a fire at her mansion on April 10, 1834, rescuers found seven people “suspended by the neck” and “torn from one extremity to the other,” prompting LaLaurie to flee the country and avoid prison. In the end, LaLaurie died 15 years after she escaped justice, perhaps in a boar hunting accident.
1941: Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor
Japanese forces carry out a surprise strike on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leading to the United States’ entry into World War II. Japan intended to wipe out the U.S. naval fleet to prevent the country’s interference in the Pacific theater of the war, but Congress declared war on Japan the very next day. The attack left 2,403 Americans dead and 19 ships damaged or destroyed, including eight battleships. It was, in the immortal words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a day that will live in infamy.”
1982: The First Execution By Lethal Injection Takes Place
Charles Brooks Jr. is executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, marking the first such execution in history. Brooks had been convicted of murdering an auto mechanic in 1976, and he was sentenced to death two years later. The method had been developed as a more humane way to carry out death sentences, involving a barbiturate injection to render the prisoner unconscious, a muscle relaxant to paralyze the diaphragm and lungs, and potassium chloride to cause cardiac arrest.
2005: Rossana Miliani Goes Missing
Rossana Miliani, a 24-year-old hiker from Miami, Florida, goes missing while preparing for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. She was last seen buying hiking supplies in Bryson City, North Carolina with an older man who said he was a traveling preacher.
Many believe that this mysterious man was none other than “National Forest Serial Killer” Gary Hilton and that Miliani was his very first victim. Hilton would go on to murder at least four people in national parks between 2007 and 2008.