Lloyd Sampsell, California’s ‘Yacht Bandit.’


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.’

South Carolina and the electric chair, a brief history.


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.

Nitrogen Hypoxia – The Death Penalty’s Future?


It’s never been done before and might never be used, but Alabama has announced its near-completion of a nitrogen gas chamber if it should prove impossible to obtain drugs for lethal injections. Far from dusting off its electric chair, (the notorious ‘Yellow Mama’) like Tennessee and South Carolina or offering firing squads as South Carolina … Continue reading Nitrogen Hypoxia – The Death Penalty’s Future?

On This Day in 1955 – Barbara ‘Bloody Babs’ Graham, John ‘Jack’ Santo and Emmett ‘The Weasel’ Perkins.


A free chapter from my latest book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California.' “Why waste good food on me? Give it to someone who can enjoy it.” – Barbara Graham on her last meal.    The controversy around Barbara Graham’s case has long outlived Graham herself. Executed on June 3 1955 and California’s third … Continue reading On This Day in 1955 – Barbara ‘Bloody Babs’ Graham, John ‘Jack’ Santo and Emmett ‘The Weasel’ Perkins.

Where South Carolina goes, Arizona follows. The gas chamber is back.


Not long ago the State of South Carolina chose to take a giant step backwards on the death penalty, reinstating the electric chair as a method and adding the firing squad as another alternative. A boycott on supplying drugs for lethal injection has seen several States try different drugs and different protocols to administer them. … Continue reading Where South Carolina goes, Arizona follows. The gas chamber is back.

America’s First Trial by TV: The Bombing of Flight 629


At Denver’s Stapleton Airport, United Airlines Flight 629 bound for Alaska is cleared for take-off at 6:52 p.m. on November 1, 1955, 15 minutes after its scheduled departure time the “Mainliner” makes a perfectly normal take-off and disappears out of sight. Eleven minutes later it explodes near the town of Longmont and wreckage is strewn … Continue reading America’s First Trial by TV: The Bombing of Flight 629

Old Sparky and the firing squad – South Carolina doubles down. Again.


Whether South Carolina, bastion of tobacco country, will allow the traditional last cigarette before a firing squad is open to question. The condemned will likely smoke either way.

On This Day in 1960 – Caryl Chessman, the ‘Red Light Bandit,’ enters San Quentin’s ‘smokehouse.’


Seldom has a condemned convict made the cover of Time magazine, an honour usually reserved for more famous and less notorious individuals, but Caryl Whittier Chessman was no ordinary convict. Whether he really was California's notorious 'Red Light Bandit' is still debated today, decades after he entered the gas chamber at San Quentin. What could … Continue reading On This Day in 1960 – Caryl Chessman, the ‘Red Light Bandit,’ enters San Quentin’s ‘smokehouse.’

On This Day in 1947 – Louise Peete, the ‘Belle of Bienville.’


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.’

Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California – due out on May 24.


Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California's chronicles of crime.