West Virginia has never been known as a hard-line death penalty State, abolishing capital punishment in 1965. After 1899 there were 104 hangings and, with a change in method, nine electrocutions. Elmer Brunner’s, on April 3, 1959 was the last.
Brunner wasn’t a notable murderer in himself. His crime, murdering homeowner Ruby Miller, was and remains all-too-typical. Miller had disturbed him while he was burgling her home in Huntington on on May 27, 1957. According to Brunner’s version, she’d disturbed him with a shotgun. Beating her to death with a claw hammer, he said, was an act of self-defence.
Not surprisingly, neither judge or jury bought that defence, especially not from an ex-convict. Arrested on the same day, Brunner’s trial began in the week of June 28, 1957. Before a packed courtroom he was convicted with no recommendation for mercy. His execution date was set for August 2, only a…
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