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).
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?
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.
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.’
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.’
Some are well-remembered, others long forgotten, but all have their own place in California's chronicles of crime.
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.
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.
When Frank Rimieri and Adolph Koenig rode the lightning at Sing Sing on 20 February 1905 that was nothing unusual in itself. First used on William Kemmler on 6 August 1890, New York's electric chair was already seeing regular use. Single and double executions like this one were standard practice and New York, already enthralled … Continue reading Frank Rimieri, Adolph Koenig and Doctor Allan Mclane Hamilton – A dark day that cast a very long shadow…