1954, a mass break-out from Sing Sing’s Death House (almost) and Sing Sing’s last ‘triple-hitter.’


Rosario, believing he had done enough to catch the right eyes, awaited his clemency and heard nothing. There was no more ominous silence than when a Governor was considering clemency, it usually meant there wouldn't be any.

Rufus ‘Whitey’ Franklin, the incorrigible’s incorrigible.


Today, Rufus Franklin ('Whitey' to his friends) is a name largely forgotten. In the South during the 1930's Franklin was a crook well-known the South's law enforcement and penal system alike. Born in Alabama in 1916 Franklin was the incorrigible's incorrigible, a crook so dedicated he would likely have never gone straight even if pardoned … Continue reading Rufus ‘Whitey’ Franklin, the incorrigible’s incorrigible.

Thomas Tobin and Sing Sing’s Death House, the prison he built for himself.


If the worst prisons are those we make for ourselves Thomas Tobin couldn't have constructed anywhere more hideous.

On This Day in 1925 – John Hurlburt performs his last execution. ‘Yellow Charleston’ has his last dance.


A few years ago I covered the story of John Hurlburt, New York's second 'State Electrician.' Trained by predecessor Edwin Davis, Hurlburt executed 140 prisoners during his tenure. Hurlburt's official debut was executing George Coyer and Giuseppe DeGoia at Auburn Prison on August 31 1914. Unofficially he had already executed prisoners under Davis's supervision. As … Continue reading On This Day in 1925 – John Hurlburt performs his last execution. ‘Yellow Charleston’ has his last dance.

The Broderick-Terry duel of 1859, the last notable duel in California.


The duel between US Senator David Broderick and David Terry, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court is a rollicking tale of friendship-turned-feud; politics, pistols, slavery and slander. Their duel on 13 September 1859 would have made a terrific historical novel or movie and still might. Duels over political disagreements, personal enmity and often … Continue reading The Broderick-Terry duel of 1859, the last notable duel in California.

Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Northern California, out on August 28.


Crime Scribe

Hello there.

It’s been a while since I last posted, but I’ve been busy on the second of three books for Fonthill’s ‘America Through Time’ series. This Rogues Gallery features sixteen of Northern California’s most wanted (and most interesting). Some are famous, some are not, but all have their own particular importance.

Home to San Quentin, Folsom and the legendary Alcatraz, Northern California’s criminal history is rich, varied, tragic and often brutal. Its thousands of mugshots present a portrait of a state and city’s progression and evolution. Its more notorious names and deeds are already well known but others, no less important, are often overlooked. This is an attempt to put them back in their proper place within California’s history and the chronicles of crime.

Some of America’s most infamous criminals and outlaws lived and died in the area including local crook John Paul Chase (crime partner of Public Enemy…

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On This Day in 1993 – David Mason, the last to enter California’s gas chamber.


The gas chamber has long been America's most controversial, debatable, complicated and expensive way to execute its condemned. Since the world's first judicial gassing (Gee Jon in Nevada in 1924) it has been used by eleven states to execute hundreds of convicts. Serial killer David Mason was the 196th convict to enter California's chamber and … Continue reading On This Day in 1993 – David Mason, the last to enter California’s gas chamber.

22 July 1934 – The death of Dillinger and the Texas Death House escape.


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 … Continue reading 22 July 1934 – The death of Dillinger and the Texas Death House escape.

On This Day in 1909 – The Santa Clara Valley Bank Robbery, the world’s first using a getaway car.


To this day many people, including crime buffs, believe the world’s first bank robbery involving a getaway car was performed in France. The quasi-Anarchist Bonnot Gang are often credited with being first, escaping in a stolen Delauney-Belleville after robbing the Societe Generale bank in Chantilly, France on 21 December 1911. This isn’t accurate, although the … Continue reading On This Day in 1909 – The Santa Clara Valley Bank Robbery, the world’s first using a getaway car.

On This Day in 1964 – Joseph Johnson, Jr., the night they drove Old Sparky down.


"The crunch. The mounting whine and snarl of the generator. The man's lips peel back, the throat strains for a last desperate cry, the body arches against the restraining straps as the generator whines and snarls again, the features purple, steam and smoke rise from the bald spots on head and leg while he sick-sweet … Continue reading On This Day in 1964 – Joseph Johnson, Jr., the night they drove Old Sparky down.