1905: Samuel McCue, mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia

On this date in 1905, the former mayor of Charlottesville, Va., was hanged in the city’s jail for the murder of his wife, Fannie — a sentence he may have accepted to protect his mistress from taking the rap.

This fascinating and little-known tale of local color is extensively explored in the Charlottesville weekly The Hook. For a gripping and off-the-beaten-path true crime mystery, the full story is well worth digesting.

Here’s an excerpt:

The City of Charlottesville congratulated itself on the afternoon of February 10 when it read in a special edition of the Daily Progress that J. Samuel McCue had confessed to his crime just hours before he was hanged. With a collective sigh of relief, the citizens could go about their lives knowing that they had done their duty.

But let us look carefully at Sam’s “confession.” Being an attorney, he always chose his words with care. His last words before the judge, after his conviction: “I am as innocent as any other man in the courtroom.”

Then before going to the gallows, he allegedly made a confession.

“J. Samuel McCue stated this morning in our presence and requested us to make public that he did not wish to leave this world with suspicion resting on any human being other than himself; that he alone is responsible for the deed, impelled to it by an evil power beyond his control; and that he recognized his sentence as just.

Signed: George L. Petrie, Harry B. Lee, John B. Turpin”

Are we to believe that a guilty man, just hours from death, was worried that someone else might later be suspected of the crime? He had been tried and convicted of it. What would make him worry that after his death anyone would look for another suspect, thereby proving their own mistake? Who would take responsibility for such an error, and why would Sam care?

Mysterious indeed.

McCue’s was the last legal hanging in Albemarle County.