The chances are that former clerk Virgil Richardson isn’t a familiar name today. To NYPD officers in 1956 (and especially the family of Patrolman William Long) his name was all too familiar. Virgil Richardson was Patrolman Long’s murderer and later the 600th convict to sit in Sing Sing’s electric chair. Only fourteen more would follow … Continue reading On This Day in 1958: Virgil Richardson, cop killer and Sing Sing’s 600th electrocution.
Neither is likely to be familiar, especially murderer George Knight. Had Knight alone been condemned for the murder and robbery of William Fowler on 30 October 1943 neither would have been even a footnote in history. Helen Fowler would have disappeared into New York State’s penal system and obscurity. George Knight would probably have vanished … Continue reading On This Day in 1944, Helen Ray Fowler and George Knight.
On the night of November 12, 1941. Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, once a senior member of Murder Inc. and now one of the most important canaries in American history, prepared a makeshift ladder from the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island, New York. He was in protective custody preparing to turn … Continue reading On This Day in 1941, Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles does the Half-Moon Hop.
Considering the time of year, it seemed appropriate to remember those who went to war but never came back. That and this isn't yet another extended plug for my new book. During the First World War the British Army passed over 3000 death sentences and carried out over 300 executions by firing squad. Around 10% … Continue reading On This Day in 1918; Privates Ernest Jackson and Louis Harris, Shot Four Days Before The Armistice.
Sutton, one of America’s most successful bank robbers, also ranked as one of its most remarkable. The robber of over 100 banks and taking at least a million dollars, Sutton did it without ever firing a shot. While robbers like John Dillinger would kill whenever they thought necessary and ‘Baby Face’ Nelson killed for the … Continue reading On This Day in 1980: Willie ‘The Actor’ Sutton, Master Bank Robber, Dies.
When disturbed loner and some-time Anarchist Leon Czolgosz was convicted for assassinating President William McKinley, Judge Truman White’s sentencing was brief. The crime had been committed on Septmber 6 1901, President McKinley dying of infection from Czolgosz’s bullet on September 9. Now, on September 23 only two weeks after the President’s death, his assassin was … Continue reading On This Day in 1901: Leon Czolgosz, Presidential Assassin.
Anastasia, murdered while getting a shave at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel, was and remains one of the most callous and murderous criminals in American history. An illegal immigrant who jumped ship in 1919, he also jumped into New York’s underworld. Born into poverty in Parghelia, Italy in 1920 he would die in 1957, rich … Continue reading On This Day in 1957: Albert Anastasia, New York’s ‘Lord High Executioner,’ Murdered.
“The only law in Sing Sing is Lawes.” – Lawes on his tough-but-fair prison regime. Lewis Lawes occupies a contradictory place in American penal history. His detractors often accused him of coddling prisoners, of being too soft when a hard-line approach was considered the best (and often only) way to handle New York State’s toughest … Continue reading Lewis E. Lawes, Sing Sing’s longest-serving, most controversial (and perhaps most conflicted) Warden.
Robert Greene Elliott, State Electrician for New York and five other states, is often listed as making his official debut in January 1926 when he executed Emil Klatt and Luigi Rapito. They’re often said to be the first of the 387 state and Federal prisoners Elliott executed during his thirteen-year tenure as executioner. They were … Continue reading A Deadly Debut, Robert Elliott’s First Execution.
The term ‘Public Enemy Number One’ is often thought to be a 1930’s phenomenon, a product of America’s Crime Wave and applied to the likes of John Dillinger or ‘Baby Face’ Nelson. It isn’t, in fact it was applied to Gerald Chapman in the mid-1920’s making him America’s first felon to wear the label. … Continue reading On This Day in 1925: Gerald Chapman, the beginning of the end.