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.
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.
To mark the release of my third book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California,' here's a criminal classic from my files. Look at the photograph and ask yourself ‘What kind of man was he?’ Handsome? Attractive? Smartly dressed? Perhaps very plausible to anyone who didn’t know him very well? Maybe he looks superficially charming … Continue reading On This Day in 1917 – Dr. Arthur Warren Waite, the ‘Playboy Poisoner.’
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.
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