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1994: Charles Rodman Campbell, hanged in Washington

May 27th, 2014 Meaghan

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1994, an uncooperative Charles Rodman Campbell was lashed to a board to keep him upright, and hanged by the neck until dead at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

According to this Seattle Times timeline of his life and crimes, Campbell had been getting in trouble since he was a child, to the extent that by the time he was seventeen his mother had given up on him and never wanted him back home again. His crimes began with burglary and drug use but quickly escalated into violence.

True crime author Ann Rule wrote a chapter about Campbell in her book A Rose For Her Grave and Other True Cases:

Charles Rodman Campbell is a killer straight out of a nightmare. There should have been some way to keep him locked up forever. But he slipped through the loopholes of our justice system and he was allowed freedom to stalk his unknowing victims. If ever there was a case that pitted innocence against pure evil, it is this one. He was out of his cage, and he was aware of every facet of her life, and yet his potential prey felt only a chill premonition of danger. He was a man consumed with rage and the need for revenge. Because of a neglectful bureaucracy, Campbell was allowed to take not one life — but three.

The sordid story that lead to his execution began on December 11, 1974, when Campbell broke into the rural Clearview, Washington home of Renae Louise Wicklund. He held a knife to the throat of her baby daughter, Shannah, forced Renae to perform oral sex on him, then fled the scene.

It took over a year to arrest him, but Renae identified him as her attacker and in 1976 he was convicted of burglary, sodomy and first-degree assault and sentenced to thirty years in prison.

In an appalling oversight, Campbell was put on work-release for good behavior in 1981. His behavior in the Monroe Reformatory hadn’t been good at all: he’d racked up multiple infractions for drug trafficking and sexual and physical violence against his fellow inmates. A prison psychologist described him as “uncaring of others, conscienceless, malevolently intolerant of the social order which imprisons him, and imminently harmful to all who directly or indirectly capture his attention or interest.”

It wasn’t until much, much too late that the parole board discovered the Monroe Reformatory was not supplying them with full records of prisoners’ infractions. Hundreds of inmates, it turned out, had been released without a complete evaluation of their behavior in custody.

No surprise, Campbell’s behavior on work-release wasn’t good either. He displayed “poor attitude and behavior,” he was caught drinking alcohol, and his ex-wife claimed he slipped away from his job twice to rape her.

But somehow, the authorities neglected to return him to prison.

Renae Wicklund still lived in the Clearview home where she had been attacked in 1974, and she wasn’t notified when Campbell was let out of prison. In January 1982, he was transferred to a work-release residence less than ten miles from Clearview and he began staking out her house, planning his next move.

On April 14, Campbell went to her home and found her there with Shannah (now eight years old) and a neighbor, Barbara Hendrickson, who along with Renae had testified against him at the rape trial.

Campbell killed them all by slashing their throats. Renae got special treatment: she was also beaten, strangled, stripped naked and her genitals mutilated.

He’d finally committed an offense grave enough to revoke his work-release status.

Campbell was arrested almost immediately and, at his trial, had little to say for himself. It can’t have been hard for the jury to choose the death sentence. As a result of the triple homicide, Washington state passed a law requiring that victims of violent crime be informed when their attackers are released from prison.

The state of Washington allowed (and still allows — it’s the only state with an active gallows) a condemned inmate a choice in the manner of death: hanging, or lethal injection.

During his twelve years of appeals, Campbell refused to make the choice and argued that being made to choose meant the state was effectively forcing him to commit suicide. The default method at the time for a prisoner who refused to choose was hanging,* and Campbell further claimed that was cruel and unusual punishment.

His case actually made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it declined to hear his appeal.

When his time came, the prison staff had to use pepper spray to persuade him to come out of his cell, strap him to a board and drag him to the scaffold, and even then he made things difficult by turning his head this way and that while they tried to secure the hood and noose. But he couldn’t delay the end for long. The prison guards would later find makeshift weapons in his cell, including a four-inch piece of metal in his cell that had been sharpened into a blade.

As of this writing, Campbell was the last man to be judicially hanged in Washington state (though not the last in the U.S.).

* In 1996, the default method of execution in Washington changed to lethal injection.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,History,Murder,Other Voices,Rape,USA,Washington

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10 Responses to “1994: Charles Rodman Campbell, hanged in Washington”

  1. 1
    Fiz Says:

    Such a terrible case! Renee must have felt all her nightmares coming true when Campbell turned up once more at her house. RIP , Kerry, Shannah and Barbara. x

  2. 2
    Keelie Says:

    I’m not surprised – a coward to the end!

  3. 3
    Meaghan Says:

    Fiz, speaking as another victim of sexual violence, the story of Renae’s death resonates especially with me. My attacker is a serial offender and he is, I believe, getting out this October! The only upside is that he’s being deported to Sudan.

  4. 4
    Fiz Says:

    Thank goodness for that. The guy who attacked me was white, middle class and entitled. I did not report him as date rape was not recognised in the 1970s. :(

  5. 5
    Patricia Says:

    What a chicken POS this guy was. I remember this vividly (I live in Tacoma). So much sadness for the victims and their families. At least Westley Dodd, as bad as he was, didn’t fight his execution and went to the gallows like a man.

  6. 6
    Kenyan Bunnie Says:

    I have never heard of this case until just now, reading it here.

    The nightmares became reality. To realize her attacker was right there, ready to torture, abuse, rape, murder, not only her, but her child and friend. I am sure she was made to watch him torture, probably sexually abuse/rape, her baby and friend, before he started in on her.

    I’m just so sickened. Our justice system is so screwed up. How could any of the officials involved in keeping this POS in prison basically write off his behaviors while in prison? Why would a human being not care to be completely honest to any board that could set him up with privelages, work release, etc? He was sexually abusing men in prison! HELLO! WTAF?!

    Sick.

    @Meghan Will he be put in jail/prison in Sudan or will he be free?

    My uncle was a serial offender, I overheard conversations that he had raped 2 girls back in Kenya, got one of them pregnant. I was witness to him raping my older sister, although at the time I was 5 and didn’t understand, only knew something was wrong since he crept in our room, middle of the night, in his underwear and started making my sister cry in her bed. I actually told my mom the next morning. So instead of being hugged and told I would never have to see and hear anything like that ever again and a good job for coming to tell me, my mom told me to never repeat what I told her to anyone or else she and my dad would be in jail and me and my sisters would be put into foster homes and never see each other again. I even remember a few weeks later my mom getting me out of bed, my older sister and my uncle, like freaking 2 or 3 in the morning. She quietly tells us that while she is gone (she was going to go visit her parents in Kenya with my little sister), she doesn’t want to hear about anything going in between us. I was confused.

    I was 8 when the pos first touched me. He told me not to tell. I didn’t tell anyone for the whole 8 years it went on.

    It came out when I was in 11th grade. He was facing 80 years. My family supported him, treated me like the criminal, forced me to recant. So I did. He was acquitted. Deported back to Kenya. Family still supports him. He got married and has kids now. God only knows what he is doing to his daughter(s).

  7. 7
    Kenyan Bunnie Says:

    I find it hilarious that this POS was such the hard ass, Mr. Torturer, abuser, rapist, predator, murderer, etc, but was a scared little piece of garbage when it came time for him to be put to death. In a way more humane way than any of the victims he murdered had met death.

    @Patricia You said Dodd took his execution like a man. In my own opinion, taking the execution with out showing fear of his own death is no where near manly.

    Could easily have been defiance. Who has the last laugh? Dodd. He won’t go begging for a stay or become visibly scared like Dodd and even Bundy did.

    Idk. IMO.

  8. 8
    Patricia Says:

    I realized shortly after I commented that saying Dodd took it like a man was not the correct thing to say but couldn’t find the right words. I only meant he didn’t cry, whine etc. and have to be dragged from his cell like Campbell was. He was a horrible, terrible person, a child molester who tortured and murdered 3 little boys for his own sexual gratification. Worse than Campbell maybe. But he realized that if he were ever released he could and would rape and murder again and he told the authorities that. He didn’t fight the execution and even wrote a book about keeping kids safe from creeps like himself which I read but it’s been a long time ago and don’t remember much about it. I do remember that his hanging was broadcast on television, shown in silhouette, behind a sheet. Does anyone miss him? I doubt it. I am sorry for what you, Meghan, Fiz and others here went through, I know it can and does change a person for the rest of their lives.

  9. 9
    Fiz Says:

    Thank you, Patricia. I am over it now. However if I ever see the guy responsible again, he will be so sorry!

  10. 10
    Meaghan Says:

    @Kenyan: My rapist will, as far as I know, be free in Sudan and probably will attack other women there. Nothing I can do about that, unfortunately.

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