On This Day in 1964 – Joseph Johnson, Jr., the night they drove Old Sparky down.


"The crunch. The mounting whine and snarl of the generator. The man's lips peel back, the throat strains for a last desperate cry, the body arches against the restraining straps as the generator whines and snarls again, the features purple, steam and smoke rise from the bald spots on head and leg while he sick-sweet … Continue reading On This Day in 1964 – Joseph Johnson, Jr., the night they drove Old Sparky down.

Frank Rimieri, Adolph Koenig and Doctor Allan Mclane Hamilton – A dark day that cast a very long shadow…


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…

Martha Place – The first woman in the electric chair.


A free chapter from my book 'Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York,' available now. Like many countries the US has an at times contradictory attitude to its death penalty, no more so than when a woman faces execution. Women account for fewer than 5% of death sentences in the US and less than 1% … Continue reading Martha Place – The first woman in the electric chair.

On This Day in 1932, Michael Malloy – The Man Who Would Not Die


They had started with the obvious: alcohol. That should have been a simple, effective means of their victim destroying himself rather than the Trust taking the additional risk of actually murdering him. Insurance fraud was not a capital offence then or now; first-degree murder no longer is in New York State, but in 1932, it certainly was. The 1920s and 1930s was the busiest period for New York’s electric chair, averaging around twenty executions every year. If choosing Malloy was a bad idea, then actually murdering him was even worse.

On This Day in 1958 – Elmer ‘Trigger’ Burke.


Elmer Francis Burke to be exact, AKA ‘Trigger’ or ‘Machine Gun Burke’ due to his fondness for the Tommy gun. He was also fond of the double-barrelled shotgun, habitually carrying a .45 automatic as well. An extortionist and freelance hitman-for-hire, Burke had an extensive record even before joining the US Army Rangers to get early … Continue reading On This Day in 1958 – Elmer ‘Trigger’ Burke.

On This Day in 1939 – Anton Myslevic, Theodore Maselkiewicz and Everett McDonald make their exit. Executioner Joseph Francel makes his entrance.


Not a tale of Christmas cheer, granted, but worth noticing all the same. Not only the debut of New York’s fourth and penultimate State Electrician, but Francel also arrived with what was known as a ‘triple hitter.’ That night three men would die at his hand, and for Francel it was only the beginning. On … Continue reading On This Day in 1939 – Anton Myslevic, Theodore Maselkiewicz and Everett McDonald make their exit. Executioner Joseph Francel makes his entrance.

On This Day 1920 – Alson Cole and Allen Grammer, Nebraska’s first electrocutions (and almost executioner John Hurlburt).


Nebraska isn’t a particularly hard-line state for capital punishment. Since achieving statehood in 1867 it has executed only 48 people; 14 by hanging, 23 by electrocution and one by lethal injection. Today we’re going to look at murderers Alson Cole and Allen Grammer, Nebraska’s first to be electrocuted and the only double execution since Nebraska … Continue reading On This Day 1920 – Alson Cole and Allen Grammer, Nebraska’s first electrocutions (and almost executioner John Hurlburt).

On This Day in 1920: Five face the chair at Sing Sing.


Normally Sing Sing’s electric chair, the legendary Old Sparky, accommodated single or double executions. Triples were less frequent, quadruples a rarity and very seldom did five convicts die on the same day. December 9 1920 was one of those days. State Electrician John Hurlburt (in the post since 1914) was firmly established as perhaps the … Continue reading On This Day in 1920: Five face the chair at Sing Sing.

On This Day in 1944: A bad day for Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter, a birthday present for Burton Turkus.


Convicted of ordering the murder of candy store owner Joseph Rosen, Buchalter and accomplice Emmanuel ‘Mendy’ Weiss and Louis Capone (no relation) stood before Judge Taylor in the Kings County Courthouse to hear their fate. With no recommendation for mercy there could only be one sentence; Death, and Lepke knew it. Sweating, glaring and with … Continue reading On This Day in 1944: A bad day for Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter, a birthday present for Burton Turkus.

On This Day in 1885, NOT Roxalana Druse.


Roxalana Druse, convicted of brutally murdering husband William, would have entered New York State’s chronicles of crime on this day in 1885. The Empire State’s last woman to hang (and the first hanging in Herkimer County) she had been condemned on October 6. Her defence had been diminished capacity caused by William’s alleged abuse. Prosecution … Continue reading On This Day in 1885, NOT Roxalana Druse.