Toni Jo Henry or, to use her proper name, Annie Beatrice McQuiston, holds a singular place in the criminal history of the State of Louisiana. Not even fellow Louisiana murderess Louise Peete (executed in California five years later) holds quite so individual a niche. They were both from Louisiana, were both murderers and both were executed but, …
Unknown to many, Wallace wa not the only prisoner to die that November day. Jimmie Richardson also had a date with the State Electrician, but even contemorary accounts rarely mention him. The reasons are depressingly simple. Convicted in June, 1950 of murdering his ex-partner, Richardson was African-American, poor and lacked the social status and expensive lawyers hired by Wallace. He also lacked the notoriety.
22 July 1934 is usually remembered for Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger, shot dead in an alley next to Chicago’s Biograph Theater. Betrayed by brothel-keeper Ana Cumpanas alias ‘Anna Sage,’ the notorious ‘woman in red’ whose dress that night was actually orange, Dillinger’s story finally ended in the traditional fashion.
Betrayed, ambushed, cornered and armed with only a.25-calibre Colt 1908 pocket pistol, Dillinger died in a hail of bullets. As one of America’s most legendary criminals died at the hands of J. Edgar Hoover’s equally-legendary ‘G-Men,’ another event that day was thoroughly overshadowed, the Texas Death House escape of 1934.
Wherever there are condemned prisoners there are people with nothing to lose. Convicts whose appeals have failed, whose lawyers have given up (if they could afford one) and who know the Governor won’t call are among the most dangerous prisoners to keep under lock and key. Until 1934 Texas…
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VE (Victory in Europe)marked the official end of hostilities in the European theatre of operations and probably the largest, most joyous celebration in human history.Unless, of course, you happened to be formerUS Army Air ForcesPrivate George Edward Smith.
While most of the rest of the world basked in the joy of victory and the relief of the European war being over, Private Smith had a rather more pressing engagement to think about. The rest of the population might be about to enter a brave new world, but Smith was about to depart rather suddenly from the old one. It was his execution day.
Smith, previously serving atRAF Attlebridgein Norfolk with the US Air Force’s784th Bombardment Squadron, wouldn’t be celebrating the end of the European war. He’d be watching the clock tick relentlessly down to 1 a.m. when he’d be escorted from the Condemned…
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"Welcome to The Rock..." Opened in August, 1934, the 'United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz' was born of high hopes and new ideas for confining and breaking America's most serious offenders. It ended on this day in 1963 after less than thirty years amid acrimony, embarrassment, hypocrisy and a sense of failure among America's penologists. It had …
A free chapter from my book ‘Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York,’ available now.
Like many countries the US has an at times contradictory attitude to its death penalty, no more so than when a woman faces execution. Women account for fewer than 5% of death sentences in the US and less than 1% of those executed have been female regardless of their crime. That isn’t to say that female killers are less brutal or cruel than their male counterparts although they are far rarer. They’re also far less likely to die even when a male co-defendant does.
Murderer Martha Place caused particular controversy not only for her gender but also the way she died. In 1890 William Kemmler became the first convict ever electrocuted. In 1899, nine years and forty-four male convicts later, Martha Place became New York’s 46th electrocution and the chair’s first female victim.
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On the night of November 12,
1941. Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, once a senior member of Murder Inc. and
now one of the most important canaries in American history, prepared a
makeshift ladder from the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island,
New York. He was in protective custody preparing to turn state’s evidence
against perhaps New York’s most vicious mobster, Albert ‘Lord High Executioner’
rope supposedly snapped, plunging him six floors to his death. The most important
witness in the country at that time is dead and nobody can be blamed.
Or can they?
It’s unlikely, with the passing of time and those who really knew,
that the full story will ever be known. What is known is that the official
versions of events conflict. Some call it murder, others an accident, some call
it suicide. We’ll probably never know which.
According to godfather…
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Just in time for Christmas.
The following are available from bookstores and online:
And my latest:
Dark River tells a fascinating, and not well known, story of an age of the Western frontier (1770-1850). Social pressures spurred on by rapid western expansion and years of warfare became the breeding ground for violence. This atmosphere brought about the creation of a unique type of person. Those who would use the Ohio River …
Robbing a supermarket near Madera turned “Rabbit” into the “Safeway Bandit.” Already wanted for the escape, Kendrick racked up another ten felony charges in the two weeks he was at large. They ended with an eleventh charge—the first-degree murder of a police officer. The Safeway Bandit had become a cop-killer; soon, he would return to San Quentin a condemned cop-killer.