A free chapter from my latest book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California,' out now online and in bookstores. “I don’t know why this should bother me, but why in the hell should people be interested in what the condemned man ate for breakfast?” – Sampsell just before his execution. Lloyd Sampsell was … Continue reading Lloyd Sampsell, California’s ‘Yacht Bandit.’
Armed robber and murderer Dallas Egan was rather younger than Gardner when he died on the gallows in San Quentin’s ‘Hangman’s Hall.’ Courtesy of Governor James ‘Sunny Jim’ Rolph, Egan may well have been drunk as well. It was by Rolph’s order that Egan was plied with whiskey before his execution and it had … Continue reading Dallas Egan, a half-pint of whiskey (to the last drop).
This is a particularly rare case, singular in fact. The case itself, a philandering husband murdering his illicit lover to protect his reputation, isn’t that unusual, unfortunately. An outwardly-respectable married man deciding to end an illicit affair, and then killing his mistress when she threatens to expose hit, is sadly all-too-common. It shouldn’t be, of … Continue reading Professor James Howard Snook, Ohio’s ‘Gold Medal Murderer.’
With a shortage of lethal injection drugs and no lawful way to get them (using so-called 'compound pharmacists' is somewhat frowned on by the Food and Drug Administration), South Carolina has resorted to a choice between the firing squad and dusting off its electric chair. Still commonly called Old Sparky, the chair itself is over … Continue reading South Carolina and the electric chair, a brief history.
So, it's to London's notorious Pentonville Prison we go for an historic event in British penal history. Hangings in themselves were nothing unusual, although by 1954 (only a year or so after the wrongful execution of Derek Bentley at Wandsworth) they were becoming increasingly rare events. Double hangings were becoming especially unusual, the days when … Continue reading On This Day in 1954 – Ian Grant and Kenneth Gilbert, the last double hanging in Britain.
Sing Sing. The name alone implies bad conditions, violence, fear, poor food, hard labour, harder punishments, misery and death. Even the name itself suits a prison, coming from the Native American phrase ‘Sinck Sinck’ meaning ‘Stone upon stone.’ Movie fans may remember James Cagney’s ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ where screen gangster ‘Rocky Sullivan’ (inspired by … Continue reading Sing Sing’s Death House – 1891 to 1963.
His name isn’t going to ring any bells with many readers, I know, but Horry (an otherwise unexceptional murderer) occupies a singular place in the chronicles of crime. Horry met, fell in love with and married wife (and victim) Jane in 1866 and the couple went on to run a hotel together in Burslem, Staffordshire … Continue reading William Frederick Horry – England’s first ‘long drop’ hanging.
A free chapter from my forthcoming book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California.' “I’m ready. I’ve been ready for a long time.” – Louise Peete minutes before she died. Bienville Parish is in north-western Louisiana and its county seat is familiar from previous chapters, Arcadia. Bienville was the site of the ambush that … Continue reading On This Day in 1947 – Louise Peete, the ‘Belle of Bienville.’
The case of George Junius Stinney could easily be described as a stain on American justice, or the lack thereof. Stinney was executed in South Carolina’s electric chair in 1944 aged only 14, the youngest American to face execution in the 20th century. His confession was probably coerced, his trial a travesty of justice and his … Continue reading George Stinney, a stain on American justice.
Despite once being one of the most conservative states in the US, Vermont is seldom notable in the chronicles of crime. Unusually for so conservative a place it rarely used its death penalty before virtually abolishing it. To give readers some comparison Vermont had eight executions in the twentieth century while New York had 663 … Continue reading On This Day in 1908 and 1954 – Mary Rogers and Donald DeMag, Vermont’s First and Last 20th Century Executions.