On this date in 1955, murderer Gerald Albert Gallego became the first client of Mississippi’s new gas chamber.*
Gallego coughed, choked, and wheezed on a less than lethal cloud of cyanide poisoning. Finally, after some forty-five minutes while officials feverishly worked to correct the problem, the repairs were completed and Gallego quickly died. An additional step was then added to the required testing of the chamber prior to an execution: an animal, usually a rabbit, would be placed in a cage in the chamber chair and cyanide gas was released to make sure the mixture was sufficiently lethal.
Gallego killed a cop, then engineered a prison break out of death row by giving a guard a faceful of acid and a fatal beating.
The younger Gerald Gallego drew two gas chamber sentences of his own, in California and Nevada, for a far more diabolical crime spree (though he ultimately died in prison, not at the hands of an executioner).
The son’s story is the subject of The Sex Slave Murders: The Horrifying True Story of America’s First Husband-and-Wife Serial Killers, whose author gave an interview to indefatigable true-crime blogger Laura James here.
Despite the familial resemblance in lawbreaking, the father and son never met in this life.
According to The Sex Slave Murders, a prison conversion gave Gallego pere a care for his next life, and on his last walk this day to the gas chamber, he handed the Mississippi sheriff a note that read in part,
Sheriff, if at any time you should have young men in your jail, please tell them that I was once like them, and should they continue, there is no reward but hardships and grief for their parents.
* Mississippi’s gas chamber replaced the electric chair.