Charles Harrelson was born in Southeast Texas, the youngest of six. One of his uncles was a detective, and another was a prison warden. His brother reportedly went on to join the FBI.
Charles chose a different path.
After a stint in the Navy, Harrelson took to a life of failed marriages, odd jobs, and small-time crime. He had several children, but he wasn’t around to see them very much. After getting locked up for robbery, he became a snitch and got out on probation.
By the mid-1960s, he claimed to be making a living as a professional gambler. But in truth, he had a more sinister way of making money: He’d become a hitman.
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After getting acquitted of one murder, Harrelson eventually went back to prison for shooting a man named Sam Degelia. This time, he was sentenced to 15 years, but he got out after just five for good behavior. He didn’t stay free for long.
John H. Wood Jr. was a US District Judge known as “Maximum John” for the long sentences he handed out. A local drug trafficker wanted Wood gone, so he hired Charles Harrelson, fresh out of jail, to do the deed.
The authorities eventually caught up to Harrelson, and after a six-hour, drug-fueled standoff, they arrested him again. There was no getting out on good behavior this time.
Harrelson went on to brag about a whole slew of murders—even claiming to have been one of the men on the grassy knoll who shot JFK.
He tried escaping in 1995, but the attempt failed and he was transferred to a supermax facility, where he remained until he succumbed to a heart attack in 2007.
Unsurprisingly, for a hitman, Charles Harrelson was a terrible father. He barely saw his three sons at all during their childhood, and never after 1968, when he dropped out of their lives completely.
They were probably better off without him anyway. Case in point: His son Woody did pretty well for himself. Do you think he was channeling some of his father when he starred in Natural Born Killers?
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