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.’
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.
Michael Manning was the last prisoner executed in the Republic of Ireland, ending a centuries-old tradition of executions in the Emerald Isle and another tradition of their being performed almost entirely by British executioners. Michael Manning’s case was the last time a group of officials would assemble at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison at 8am in the … Continue reading Michael Manning – Last to hang in the Irish Republic.
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 former US Army Air Forces Private George Edward Smith. While most of the rest of the world basked in the joy of victory and the relief … Continue reading On This Day in 1945 – Pvt. George Edward Smith, on VE Day.
John Wesley Hardin. Jesse James. Cole Younger. “Curly” Bill Brocius. Gunslingers, killers, thieves and icons of the Wild West. Of all the Western outlaws none has quite the notoriety of “Billy the Kid.” Questionably accused of killing 21 men (one for each year of his short and violent life), Billy is as much a Wild … Continue reading On This Day in 1881, Billy the Kid cheats the hangman.
Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California's chronicles of crime.
“Death itself isn’t dreadful, but hanging seems an awkward way of ending the adventure…” – Gerald Chapman to his lawyers after being condemned to hang for murder in 1925. ‘Gerald Chapman’ was his favorite alias, but his real name was probably George Chartres. Given that records are sketchy and Chapman was always evasive about his youth, … Continue reading On This Day in 1926 – Gerald Chapman, America’s first ‘Public Enemy Number One.’
Barrett is certainly a criminal curiosity. His life was one of crime and allegedly several murders. The murder for which he finally died gave him an unwilling place in the chronicles of American crime, though he was hardly appreciated becoming one of history’s footnotes. So why did he hang in a state which had long … Continue reading On This Day in 1936 – George ‘Diamond King’ Barrett, first to die for murdering a Federal agent.
A free chapter from 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York.' Grover Cleveland is seldom regarded as an exceptional US President. He wasn’t universally despised (although often deeply unpopular) but not universally admired either. In short, he was a safe and unspectacular pair of hands. He does have one singular attribute setting him apart from … Continue reading On This Day in 1873 – John Gaffney hanged by future President Grover Cleveland.
On February 3 the Virginia State Senate voted 21 to 17 in favour of abolishing Virginia’s death penalty. Two days later the House of Delegates voted 57-41 to back repealing capital punishment in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam has also indicated he will back the decision, remarking that “The practice is fundamentally inequitable. … Continue reading Virginia to abolish capital punishment.