Posts filed under 'Indiana'

1868: The Reno brothers and Charles Anderson lynched in New Albany

Add comment December 12th, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1868, 60-plus masked and armed vigilantes took control of the New Albany, Indiana jail and executed four members (three of them kin) of a notorious train-robbing gang.

From the Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago Republican), December 13, 1868:

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 12.

The Seymour vigilance committee visited the New Albany jail this morning, about 3 o’clock, and hung the Reno brothers and Charles Anderson inside the jail, and left town before any alarm was given.

CINCINNATI, Dec. 12.

The following particulars of the hanging of the Renos at New Albany, has been received by the Cincinnati Times:

NEW ALBANY, Dec. 12.

Between 3 and 4 o’clock this morning, from 60 to 70 Seymour Regulators, masked and heavily armed arrived here via Jeffersonville Railroad, and immediately upon their arrival they proceeded by a direct route to the county jail, placing guards at every street to guard against surprise. Arriving at the jail one of the guards stationed outside took alarm and attempted to raise an alarm but was quickly taken in charge of and placed under guard.

They then entered the office of the jail, and after twelve or fifteen of them entered, Sheriff Fullclove, awakened by the disturbance, came to the door, and when they demanded the keys attempted to get away by dodging down a cellar way and coming out on the outside of the building, but here he was commanded to surrender, and by some means was shot through the arm. They had now complete possession of the jail and found the keys in the Sheriff’s bedroom, when they immediately proceeded to the cells and forced one of the guards to unlock the cells.

They then took Frank Reno, Simon Reno, Bill Reno, and Charles Anderson, the express robbers, out, and hung them to the iron railing or posts supporting the walk around the outside of the cells. The victims were placed in chairs, the ropes adjusted and the chairs kicked from under them, Frank and Simon were hanging to one post, Simon in front and Frank behind him; the other brother was hanging at a corner post, and Anderson in the backway in the rear of the jail.

After being satisfied that their victims were dead the bold murderers quietly locking the jail and all its occupants, taking the keys with them, and taking one of the county commissioners to the depot, then after all being ready they started away, giving the commissioner the keys as soon as possible. The alarm was sounded, but too late; no one could be found, and all that remained to show their presence was the dead bodies of the express robbers.

The most intense excitement prevails here, and is getting much higher every moment. The news spread like wild fire.

Mrs. Frank Reno and Mrs. Anderson are in the city.

Frank Reno fought the regulators, and knocked three of them down, but was overpowered and knocked senseless — his head being badly bruised, and blood running down his face. The victims presented a ghastly and horrible spectacle.

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 12. — All the telegraph wires on the line of the Jeffersonville railroad were found connected together and thrown to the ground about half a mile north of Seymour, Ind., this morning, supposed to have been done by the Seymour regulators before going to New Albany to hang the four express robbers.

LOUISVILLE, Dec. 12 — Additional particulars of the tragedy at New Albany, have been received. About 3 o’clock this morning, Mr. Luther Whitten, one of the outside guards of the jail, was met at the entrance, by a party of men, who presented pistols to him, demanding silence or death. Whitten shouted however, but was seized, knocked down, and informed if another shout was uttered he should die. By this time the jail office was filled with men searching for the keys. Sheriff Fullenlove, understanding the situation, came down from his sleeping apartment, and gained the door leading to the grounds on the west side of the jail. Here he met an armed force with pistols directed at him, and exclaimed, “Gentlemen, don’t shoot me, I am Sheriff.” One of them, however, fired the shot taking effect in the right arm, inflicting a serious and painful wound. The keys were demanded, but he positively refused to surrender them. About a dozen of them then entered Mr. Fullenlove’s room, where his wife laid in bed, and demanded the jail keys of her, which she refused; but they succeeded in finding them concealed in a drawer. Thos. Mathews, one of the inside guards, was compelled to open the cells of the men the mob had determined to hang. Frank and William Reno were the first victims dragged out, and they were hung alongside of each other on the same pillar. Simeon Reno was then brought out, but he fought the mob with great desperation, knocking one or two down before he was overpowered, and left suspended between the ceiling and floor. Charles Anderson, the last victim, was heard to beg for the privilege of praying; but this request was refused, and he was hung at the southwest corner of the jail cell. After further threats of killing the Sheriff, the mob proceeded to the train, carrying with them the jail keys. From the jail to the train, armed men stood guard to prevent any alarm being given. At 4 o’clock, the train, with the entire party, consisting of from seventy-five to one hundred men, started off. They came well armed and equipped for the work.

They intended to hang a man named Clark, the murderer of Geo. Tille, but they concluded not to do so, fearing to remain longer. The vigilants came from Seymour, Ind., in a car by themselves, attached to the regular train.

Charles Anderson and Frank Reno were surrendered by the Canadian authorities upon the solemn pledge by the United States Government that they should have a fair trial, and, if found innocent, be returned to Canda.


ANTECEDENTS OF THE ROBBERS.

The telegraphic reports published above convey the intelligence that yesterday morning a number of men forced an entrance into the New Albany, Ind., jail, and there forcibly took from their cells, Frank Reno, Charles Anderson, Simeon Reno and William Reno, and executed them by hanging them to posts or bars of iron in the jail.

CRIME IN INDIANA.

In regarding the fearful occurrence, and the rapidity with which it follows two other dreadful scenes of a similar character, one cannot but think in the first place of the condition of criminal affairs in Indiana. In a great measure these terrible scenes of popular vengeance can be traced to the condition of the laws of the State, which are apparently framed more for the defense of the criminal than with a fair view to his conviction.

THE RENO FAMILY

have been well known in the annals of crime for years past. Their home has been about half a mile from

ROCKFORD,

which a few years ago was a beautiful and thriving village in Johnson county, Ind. It would have been the crossing point of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad with the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis railroad had it not been on account of the lawlessness of the people that were settled in that vicinity. The village of Rockford is now almost dilapidated; the beautiful blocks of buildings and stores which once graced its streets are in ruins; the torch of the incendiary has done its work. Having become the center of villainy, it soon became the hiding-place of villains; the house of the Reno family was the rendezvous of scoundrels, and the one or two saloons or groggeries left standing became their ordinary abiding place.

SEYMOUR

is located on the line of the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis railroad, and is also the crossing point of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, two miles south of Rockford. It has grown to be a large town. Owing to the proximity of the Renos and their gang to this place, it had become also unsafe for the peace of law-abiding residents.

ACCUMULATIONS OF VILLAINIES

For several years robberies and murders have been frequent in the vicinity — in fact to such an extent that the people have long contemplated taking the law in their own hands on account of the defect in the State law which prevented the conviction of parties arrested, and charged with crime. Continuance after continuance of the trial of prisoners has followed with general rapidity until it was found that the law could not be enforced. In addition to the ordinary murders and robberies which have taken place in the vicinity of Seymour large and extraordinary robberies frequently took place; the express companies were often robbed — trains have been stopped in open daylight and the passengers pillaged and plundered of their property.

WHOLESALE RASCALITY.

It will be recollected that in February last a raid was made upon all the county treasurers’ safes of Northern Iowa, taking the whole counties through, from the Mississippi to the Missouri. All those robberies were either planned or executed by the Renos and their confederates. For a robbery committed in Missouri

JOHN RENO

is now in the Missouri Penitentiary, under a sentence of twenty five years’ imprisonment.

THE MILLS AND HARRISON COUNTY ROBBERIES

For the robbery of the Mills and Harrison county safes, in Iowa, shortly afterward, Frank Reno, Mike Rogers, Charles Anderson, William Deering and Albert Perking were arrested and confined in the Mills county jail. Shortly thereafter they managed to break jail and made their

ESCAPE

Traveling the whole way from there to Chicago on foot, fording the streams in the dead of winter, and crossing the Mississippi upon ice, they then made their way from Chicago to Windsor, Canada, by rail.

THE FIRST EXPRESS ROBBERY.

After recruiting themselves there, another raid was proposed and agreed upon. Upon the 22d of May last, the cars of the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis railroad, while stopping at Marshville station, — an isolated station, or rather watering place, — were forcibly seized, the engineer, fireman and express messenger were thrown from the engine and cars, and the engine and express car having been disconnected, were run at a rapid rate of speed within a half mile of Seymour. Here they were left, the express safes having been robbed of all their treasure, amounting to nearly $100,000. The express messenger was thrown from the cars by the robbers when the train was running at the rate of thirty miles an hour.

DETECTION AND CAPTURES OF THE THIEVES.

This case was placed in the hands of Allan Pinkerton, the world-renowned detective, with a view to the detection of the criminals. It is needless to recount the course which was pursued by the detectives; suffice it to say, that sufficient evidence was discovered to warrant the finding of bills of indictment against Frank Reno, Charles Anderson, Wm. Deering, Simeon Reno, Wm. Reno, Albert Perkins and Jack Nelson, alias California Nelse, Frank Reno and Charles Anderson made their escape to Windsor; the other parties remained in the States. Simeon and Wm. Reno were arrested and confined in jail at New Albany in July last. In the same month Deering was arrested and held at Seymour for identification, having disposed of some of the stolen bonds to a man named Baum, at Indianapolis. Baum fled, and also made his escape to Canada.

While held under guard at Seymour, Deering managed to make his escape. Nelson was afterward arrested, and also taken to Seymour and held to bail. In the meantime

THE CELEBRATED EXTRADITION CASE

commenced in Canada, Pinkerton having gone there to prefer complaint against Frank Reno and Charles Anderson. After a long, tedious and hotly contested legal strife the prisoners were surrendered by order of Chief Justice Draper, of Canada, to the United States authorities.

A NARROW ESCAPE

Our reader will probably recollect that on Saturday night when the prisoners were extradited, or rather delivered over to the United States authorities, the tug on which they were placed in an hour afterward was sunk by the propellor Phil. Sheridan running into it in the Detroit river. By desperate exertion on the part of Mr. Pinkerton, who had the prisoners in custody, they were rescued from a watery grave, and by a circuitous route were forwarded from Detroit to Cincinnati and from thence up the river to New Albany, where they were confined in the jail of Floyd county, where they remained in durance until the hour of their fearful end.

THE RENO FAMILY

consisted of old man Reno, who has been all his life a desperado; old Mrs. Reno, who died last summer, and who supplied the brains for the crowd; John Reno, now in the Missouri penitentiary as above mentioned, Frank Reno, Clinton Reno, Simeon Reno, Wm. Reno, Laura Reno and one younger son, who is known as “Trick Reno.”

OLD MAN RENO

was of Swiss origin, but lived for many years in Pennsylvania, where he and his wife were married.

A SECOND DESPERATE ATTEMPT.

We now recur to the attempted robbery of the Adams Express Company at Brownstown, twelve miles west of Seymour, on the line of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, on the night of the 9th of July last. On this occasion the car of the Adams Express Company was again detached from the train, an engineer got on board, and the express car and locomotive were rapidly run off. The

BAFFLED

express company, however, had guards who were then in the express car. Shortly after leaving Brownstown the train came to a full stop, when the thieves entered the express car with a view of robbing it. They were then promptly fired upon by the guards, and the engineer, who was running the entine, and who proved to be one Vol. Ellits, was severely wounded and captured.

THE THIEVES

The robbers made their escape, but were afterward discovered to be Ellits, Frank Sparks, John Moore, Charles Roseberry, Warren Clifton and Henry Jerill; they were all pupils of the Reno school, having been their intimate associates and friends. Vol. Ellits had formerly been a brakeman upon the Ohio and Mississippi railroad. Frank Sparks had worked upon a farm of Reno’s. John Reno was at one time brakeman on the railroad, and probably one of the most expert men in springing on or off trains that could be found; he had been arrested for robbery prior to this offense.

Charles Roseberry was a painter, and resided in Seymour; he had several times been arrested, and was one of the parties who burned down the police station at Seymour, shortly before the commission of this robbery. Warren Clifton had formerly been in the employ of the Adams Express Company at Seymour, but had been led into evil practices by his association with the Reno family. Henry Jerill was the son of the drayman who was in the habit of carrying the express goods through Seymour. The father was respectable, but he (the son) had been led into evil habits from his association with these people.

POPULAR VENGEANCE

All the above named robbers made their escape, with the exception of Ellits. A reward was however offered for them and they were speedily captured. On the night of the 20th of July last, the train on which Clifton[,] Roseberry and Ellits were being conveyed as prisoners to Brownstown was stopped by an obstruction placed on the track, about two miles from Seymour. The prisoners were forcibly taken from the cars and hung upon a beech tree in the vicinity.

THE SECOND LYNCHING.

On the 26th of July, Sparks, Moore and Jerill, who had been captured in Illinois, while working in the neighborhood of Mattoon, while en route for Brownstown, shared the same fate upon the same beech tree.

A RATHER COMICAL COINCIDENCE,

despite its terrible associations, occurred at this point, and is an illustrative of the quiet and premeditated manner in which these scenes of death transpired. It is said that there were about one or two hundred men present at this execution. A quiet, inoffensive Dutchman, who lives in a house about two hundred feet from the spot where the beech tree stands, upon looking out and seeing the first three were hanging there, was very much shocked; he had gone out to get up his cows for milking, and our readers may judge of his surprise and terror when he observed the three dead bodies suspended from the tree. In about one week afterward the honest German, going out again to get up his cattle for milking, observed three more bodies suspended from the same branches. Rushing to his house he exclaimed, “Mein Gott, if those three dead men have not come back again upon the tree,” and for hours was insensible with fright.

The German, who was merely a tenant, immediately concluded that if he was going to have, instead of beechnuts, corpses suspended from his tree, it was time to sell out. He accordingly disposed of the lease of his farm and left for parts unknown.

THE END.

The telegraph now brings us the sad intelligence that the people have risen once more, and have summarily executed the almost sole remnants of one of the most daring and murderous bands in the country.

A FATAL REMINISCENCE.

In this connection, it may be proper to say that the telegraph but three days ago conveyed the painful news that George Flanders, one of the guards who was upon the express car at the time of the robbery of the 9th July last, has died from his wounds, having suffered during that long period of time, the most intense agony. These numerous robberies have culminated, apparently, in the fearful scenes which have been enacted at New Albany — the law having apparently failed to protect the people, the people have desperately determined to protect and avenge themselves.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Borderline "Executions",Common Criminals,Crime,Execution,Hanged,History,Indiana,Lynching,Organized Crime,Public Executions,Theft,USA

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1872: Thomas Camp, the first hanged in Gibson County

Add comment November 22nd, 2017 Headsman

The first legal hanging in Gibson County, Indiana, took place on November 22, 1872, of a careless boy named Thomas Camp (“Kemp” by some early reports) l, ruined by an insupportable debt.

From the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat of August 12, 1871, channeling a story published two days previous in the Evansville, Ind., Journal:

Great excitement prevailed in Haubstadt yesterday over the discovery of a murder that was perpetrated about two miles west of that place on Monday, the 31st of July. Persons arriving on the noon train yesterday, brought word of the affair, and a reporter for the Journal went up to investigate the case. From the confession of the murderer at the inquest, and from other evidence before the Coroner, the follwoing appears to be the story, for the full relation of which our reporter is indebted to the courtesy of Mr. Michael Ulsomer[?] of Haubstadt and others who were present at the inquest.

Some time during July the murderer, whose name is Kemp, bought a pair of ponies from a man named Bilderbeck, both being residents of Lynnville, Warrick county. Kemp was to pay for the ponies when he received a sum of money, which he represented was due him from a third person who was known to Bilderbeck as a reliable man.

A few days afterwards Bilderbeck […] the pretended debtor, and asked him about the debt […] he denied any indebtedness to Kemp whatever.

Bilderbeck as soon as possible […] Kemp and reproaching him with his dishonesty, threatened him with a prosecution for false pretenses if his debt was not at once paid or secured.

Kemp was very much alarmed at the threat of prosecution, and to conciliate Bilderbeck told him that he would try to get some money from a relative, named Chas. Monroe, whom he said lived near Stacers, a few miles south of Haubstadt, and representing that he would be more likely to get the money if Bilderbeck went with him, he induced him to accompany him. When they arrived at Haubstadt, Kemp called upon a son of the man whom he claimed as a relative, and it is said was discouraged in the project to get money from that source. He concealed this circumstance from Bilderbeck, and feigned to proceed on his journey. When the two left Haubstadt it was getting quite dark. Kemp took the road leading westward instead of southward, and when about two miles west of Haubstadt he pleaded fatigue as an excuse for going no further that night, he being on foot, while Bilderbeck was mounted on a mare. He also told Bilderbeck that Monroe kept savage dogs, and it would be dangerous to approach the house at night. Thus persuaded, Bilderbeck dismounted, and both lay down under a tree. Kemp says he watched until Bilderbeck was asleep, when he arose stealthily, and with a heaby club about two feet long, beat Bilderbeck about the head until he was dead. When the first blow was struck, Bilderbeck partly raised up, when a second blow stunned him, and the blows he continued until the victim’s life was battered out.

Having killed him, he set about concealing the crime, and to that end, he dragged the body further into the woods, and stripping it of the clothing, threw it into the bushy top of a fallen tree, throwing the shoes and pants in with it, and hanging the hat and shirt on a tree, took the coat with him, and, mounting the mare, rode off toward Poseyville, Posey county, where he traded the mare off for a horse, and returned to Lynnville, taking the murdered man’s saddle and coat with him.

When Bilderbeck’s absence was remarked, people naturally looked to Kemp to account for it, and he answered that the last he saw of him was that he drove off in a buggy with two other men when they were in the neighborhood of Poseyville. People were not well satisfied with the answer, but did not openly accuse him until some one discovered that he was in possession of Bilderbeck’s saddle and coat. This coming to the knowledge of Bilderbeck’s brother he at once demanded an explanation of Kemp, who still persisted in saying that he knew nothing of him, but on closer questioning acknowledged that he knew where the mare was, and after considerable urging and in the face of what looked ominously like a disposition to lynch him, he agreed to go with the brother and show him where the mare could be found.

They started in a hack, accompanied by a couple of neighbors, and arrived at Haubstadt about daylight yesterday, when, for the first time, the facts became known. On the way to Haubstadt Kemp’s story was considerably varied, and he admitted that Bilderbeck was dead, but denied having killed him, saying that he was killed by two members of a gang to which he belonged, and he named two persons whose reputation was such as to give some color of truth to the story.

At Haubstadt, where they stopped for breakfast, it is aid he admitted that he had killed Bilderbeck, but begged the man to whom he confessed not to reveal it, as he was sure the people would kill him, and his fear did not seem to be ill grounded when the story ran about among the people. His confession was not then made known, and he proceeded to the place where he traded off the mare, where a deputy sheriff of Posey county appeared, and taking Kemp aside, told him if he would confess and turn State’s evidence, it would be better for him. He then made a complete confession, volunteered to show where the body was concealed, and at once proceeded with the officers and attendants to where he had thrown it, and where the remains were found, the flesh having been devoured by the buzzards, except a little that still clung to the bones of the legs.

It will naturally be supposed that the witnesses of this were almost beside themselves with horror and indignation, but no violence was offered the wretch.

The party returned to Haubstadt with the remains. The inquest was held, the wretched Kemp, trembling with fear, made a full confession, during which the indignation of the people rose to a fearful hight [sic], but was wisely restrained, even the brother of the murdered man assisting to keep down the indignation.

Mr. Bilderbeck, the brother of the murdered man, afterwards confessed that it was with the greatest difficulty he resisted an impulse to shoot the murderer on the spot, although he could not countenance any interference by others.

At the close of the inquest the murderer was conveyed to Fort Branch, three miles distance, for examination before a justice, whence he was sent to Princeton to jail.

It is said that great excitement prevails in the neighborhood of Lynnville, where Bilderbeck lived, and where he leaves a wife and three children. He was about thirty-one years old, a farmer, and was much respected.

Kemp is only about nineteen years old, although he is married. He is small in stature and slight build, light complexion, and sandy-haired, smooth-faced, and said to be of tolerably fair countenance. He told a gentleman that he never thought of murder until he came to Haubstadt and found that his chance to get the money from Monroe was slim, when believing that he was in danger of going to the penitentiary for the fraud, he determined to kill Bilderbeck and thus get rid of his evidence.

The story, taken all together, is one of the most shocking that has occurred in thes parts, and ranks with the murder of Miss Carson and Lizzie Sawyer for brutality.


From the Terre Haute, Ind., Daily Wabash Express, April 22, 1872.

Camp, the murderer of Bilderbeck, who escaped from the Gibson county jail some time since, is now in jail, on a charge of horse-stealing, at Owensboro, Kentucky, and will be returned to his old quarters on this side of the Ohio.


From the Indianapolis Sentinel, July 26, 1872.

The trial of Thomas Camp for the murder of Belderbech [sic], is in progress at Princeton. The defense set up is insanity.


From the Indianapolis Sentinel, July 29, 1872.

The trial of Thomas Camp, for the murder of Haubstadt, was concluded at Princeton on Friday, the jury returning a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.


From the Indianapolis Sentinel, August 23, 1872.

Mrs. Camp, mother of Thomas Camp (the murderer of Bilderbeck, who is now under sentence to be hung on the 4th of October), died at her residence in Warrick county on the 11th. Her death was caused by the shock to her system on learning of the sentence of her son. She was a highly respected, Christian lady.


From the Indianapolis Sentinel, November 25, 1872.

Princeton, Ind., November 22, 1872. — The execution of Thomas Camp for the murder of John R. Bilderbeck in August, 1871, took place here to-day. Early in the morning the Sheriff informed Camp that there was no hope of commutation of his sentence, the Governor having refused to stay the execution. For the first time the prisoner seemed to realize his terrible position. Turning to the Sheriff he said, with a faltering voice, “I suppose it must be so.” Being asked at what o’clock he would like the execution to take place, he said, “I am not particular; just use your own pleasure.” The hour chosen was 2 o’clock. At 1 the representatives of the press, and those persons to whom the Sheriff had given passes, were admitted to the jail yard. An enclosure had been erected around the yard to guard the terrible scene to be enacted from the public gaze. The clergymen in attendance, the Rev. John McMaster and the Rev. D.B. Baharree [sic: it’s T.G. Beharrel/Beharrell], together with a few others, were permitted to enter the jail for a short conversation with Camp. The latter we found standing in the doorway of his cell, nervously adjusting the white cottong loves with which he had been provided. He was clad in a full suit of black. His brother-in-law was with him, and had taken the prisoner’s directions for the disposal of his worldly effects, and his last messages to friends and relatives. At 1:50 the sheriff, the clergymen and physicians in attendance, and the reporters, formed the procession to accompany the doomed man to the scaffold. There was no hesitation in his tread. He stepped upon the planks like one who wished to be relieved from a long suspense. The boyish innocence of his face made it almost impossible to believe that he was the hardened wretch which the evidence in the trial proved him to be. At either side of him were the ministers.

ON THE SCAFFOLD.

The Rev. Mr. McMaster read in a clearly audible voice a portion of the fifty-first Psalm. An earnest prayer was then offered by the Rev. Baharrel, the prisoner kneeling, and following the services with calmness and attention. Immediately upon their conclusion, Camp stepped to the front of one platform, and said, with visible emotion:

My friends, I will speak a few words. I am now going to leave you. I confessed to a crime of which I am not guilty. I was there when the deed was committed. I hope to meet you all in heaven, where I hope to meet my mother.

At one minute past 2 Camp placed himself in front of the drop. His limbs were bound, and the usual black-cap drawn over his face. The fatal noose was adjusted, Camp stepped upon the trap, and a moment later he was dangling in the air. For about four minutes there was a slight contraction of the arms and legs, and two minutes later there was another trembling of the body. In about fifteen minutes the physicians pronounced pulsation to have ceased, and the body was lowered in the coffin. The face was calm and peaceful, and looked as if Camp had died without great suffering. The face was calm and peaceful, and looked as if Camp had died without great suffering. The remains were given to friends, and will be taken to Warrick county for burial. Camp had barely passed his twenty-first birthday. A few months before the crime for which he was hung was committed, he was married to a young wife, a person of unblemished character. Camp’s mother died of a broken heart in a month after his sentence was pronounced. Eighteen months ago he was himself a respectable, well-to-do young man, the owner of a good farm left to him by his father. But he fell into evil associations, and as a consequence lies in a murderer’s coffin. It is generally believed that he was not the only guilty party in the Bilderbeck murder. There are others who are being watched, and Camp’s partners in the crime may yet be brought to punishment.

Camp detailed his implausible non-confession in greater detail shortly prior to his execution; you can read about the alleged gang that made him murder his creditor in this two-parter posted to ancestry.com: part 1 | part 2

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Indiana,Murder,Pelf,USA

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1818: James Ouley

1 comment October 1st, 2017 Headsman

This date’s entry arrives to us via the 1921 Indiana Magazine of History, looking back to frontier times over a century before. According to the Espy File‘s index of U.S. executions, this appears to be just the second hanging since Indiana attained statehood in 1816.

ORGANIZATION OF THE FIRST COURT

The first session of the circuit court of Crawford county convened at Mount Sterling, August 1, 1818. Hon. Davis Floyd, Judge Green, and James Glenn composed the court. Since there was no courthouse in Mount Sterling then, James Brasher let the judges use his new log house. This house was too small to accommodate all of the jurors, hence they sat around on logs in the yard.

Sheriff Daniel Weathers was present and returned the names of the following men for a grand jury: Cornelius Hall, Lazarus Stewart, Alex King, William Osborn, James Lewis, Elias Davis, Elisha Potter, Alex Barnett, William Potter, Robert Yates, Peter Peckinpaugh, William Scott, Reuben Laswell, Abraham Wiseman, George Tutter, Martin Scott, John Sturgeon, Robert Sands, Isaac Lamp, Ed Gobin, and Malachi Monk.

These men elected Cornelius Hall foreman. After due consideration the jury returned a bill against James Ouley for murder in the first degree. The evidence showed that Ouley had followed William Briley through the woods for some distance and had then shot him in the back about where his suspenders crossed.

The ball came out in his neck making a wound about 8 inches deep. Briley died almost instantly and Ouley escaped with his horse and about 75 cents in money.

Briley lived near the present town of English. He had left home with a sack of wool and was going to Corydon to get the wool carded. He was traveling on the Governor’s Old Trail which ran from Corydon to Vincennes. The exact spot where the shooting occurred cannot now be located. It happened near the top of White Oak hill in what was then Whiskey Run township.

This act occurred July 1, 1818. Some men happened by and found Briley. They started to carry him to his cabin over on Dog creek. After they had gone about two miles they decided that they would bury him there. So a grave was dug and the body was buried just as the men had found it. Briley had no person living with him and Ouley might have escaped if he had hidden the body.

The news spread rapidly and the whole community was aroused. The only evidence then against Ouley was that he had disappeared from home that same day on which the man Briley was killed and that some woman had seen him following Briley through the woods.

Jonathan Chambers and Zedekiah Lindley who were prominent men volunteered to catch Ouley. These men had no warrant for his arrest but they were experts in catching horse thieves and felt sure that they could catch Ouley if he could be found anywhere. So they traveled all over southern Indiana but did not find him. They then crossed the Ohio river near Mauckport and began hunting for him in Meade county, Kentucky. After a two weeks’ tramp they came to the town of Brandenburg and decided to give up the hunt and let him go. While stopping at the tavern one day they saw men hauling cord wood into town. From these men they learned that there was a wood cutter out in the forest who had come there from Corydon a short time before. That night Chambers and Lindley crept up and caught Ouley in his cabin. They brought him back to the old block house near Marengo and chained him to the logs in the house and guarded him day and night till the trial came off on the first day of August.

The bill returned by the grand jury read:

James Ouley late of Crawford county, a yeoman not having the fear of God before his eyes, but moved |and seduced by the spirit of the Devil on July 1, 1818, with force and arms in Whiskey Run township in and upon William Briley in the peace of God then and there being wilful and of malice a fore thought did make and against James Ouley with a certain rifle gun of the value |of $10 loaded with gun powder and a certain leaden bullet with which gun the said Ouley did shoot William Briley in the back and the ball came out in his neck making a wound about 8 inches deep from which wound Briley died almost instantly.

The trial began at once. Ouley pleaded not guilty and demanded that the county furnish him an attorney. The court appointed Henry Stephens and Harbin Moore to defend while William Thompson was appointed prosecuting attorney for that session of the court.

Daniel Weathers, the sheriff, had a large number of men present from which these men were selected for a petit jury: Elisha Lane, Constance Williams, Marcus Troelock, Joseph Beals, Andrew Troelock, David Beals, John Goldman, James Richie, William May, George Peckinpaugh, Thomas W. Cummins, and Robert Grimes. Constance Williams was selected foreman of the jury.

The trial was conducted out of doors in the woodyard. The jurors who were among the best men in the county were sworn to hear the evidence and to decide the case. After all the evidence was in and the court had instructed the jurors, the jury retired to consider the evidence. After some time the jury returned a verdict of guilty and placed his sentence at death.

The counsel for defense asked for a new trial on these grounds:

  1. That the verdict was contrary to the state law;
  2. That the evidence was not sufficient;
  3. The conduct of the jurors was not proper;
  4. That outsiders talked to the jurors during the trial;
  5. That Elisha Lane had expressed his opinion before the trial began;
  6. That one of the jurors was too much indisposed to pay the proper amount of attention that such a case demanded. The juror in question was said to have been asleep.

The court not being fully advised adjourned till the next day when it refused the defendant a new trial and asked him if he had any further reason why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. He asked the court to arrest the judgment of the jurors on these grounds:

  1. That he was a wheelright made the evidence uncertain;
  2. That the bill did not have the name of the state or county in it.

The court overruled the argument and passed this sentence upon him:

That he should be kept in the old block house in the custody of the sheriff till October 1, 1818, when he should be taken out on the same road pr on what ever new road might be laid out by that time in one half mile of Old Mount Sterling, between the hours 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and hanged by the neck till dead.

Sheriff Weathers took the prisoner back to the block house and chained him to the logs. Men kept guard over him day and night. Yet he attempted to gnaw out. Years afterwards when the block house was torn down one could see the place where he had gnawed with his teeth on the logs of the block house.

Cornelius Hall who was a carpenter, volunteered to make the casket for Ouley. On the day of execution the coffin was put into a wagon and Ouley was chained and hauled back to Mount Sterling and hanged. He was buried in the old field near the site of the hanging. His grave was marked for a long time but now no trace of it can be found. Henry Batman who cleared the old field in 1900 said that he found a spot of clay near the road about three feet by six and thought that must have been the dirt which was thrown up from the grave. There was not much direct evidence against Ouley in the case but the jury was sure that he was guilty. So they wanted to make an example of him for the rest of the outlaws who lived in the county.

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1836: Isaac Young/Heller, axman

Add comment April 29th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1836, a troubled (ex-)family man named Isaac Young — latterly going by Isaac Heller — was publicly hanged in Liberty, Indiana for axing his entire family to death in a fit of madness.

Young hailed from Pennsylvania, and the reason he had changed his name and moved to Indiana was that he had done a similar thing in his native haunts.

As a teenager in the 1820s, Isaac Young had been seized strangely by the spiritual tremors abroad during America’s Second Great Awakening. A baptized zealot who fancied himself blessed with the power of prophesy, Young was also captive to an inescapable — and seemingly defeatist — impression of being forever pursued and haunted by the devil. Young’s religious thunderings tended to produce more interest in the utterer’s state of mind than in the listener’s state of soul, and the youth was known to succumb to “gusts of passion.”

Eventually, those gusts blew a hurricane.

Young lived with his brother, who had a wife and a 10-year-old orphan girl — and, little did they know, the devil watching over them all. One night in 1830, Young awoke with a start at a sound he perceived upon the stair, convinced that some entity had entered the room he shared with the little girl; his religious eccentricities jumbling him right into lunacy.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Young bellowed at the dragon from Revelations come to visit him in his nightshirt in Dauphin County. He tried to grapple with the phantom but missed it, and of a sudden he turned his frenzy on the girl, battering her furiously. Young would later say that he was “forcibly impelled” to the attack by an overwhelming “duty” to “destroy” the child; his brother and his sister-in-law attempted to intervene but Young seized a club and with a berserker rage chased them from the house — then returned to his cowering little roommate, and sawed off her head with his knife.

He was acquitted of this murder by reason of his manifest insanity, but this was not a time and place with resources to aid the mentally ill. All anyone could think to do was to keep him chained in the poor house until after a few months he appeared to return to reason — at which point he was finally released and blew town, now rechristened with his mother’s maiden name.

In the hamlet of Liberty, the new man Heller escaped the devil … for a few years. He opened a grocery store and married a woman named Elizabeth McCollam with whom he had a happy brood of three children.

Until one day the gusts returned to swirl his soul again.

“The first symptom of insanity noticed in this county was about three years ago [i.e., 1833], by a young man who was going home with him on a Sabbath evening,” the Connersville (Ind.) Watchman reported in a profile that was widely reprinted around the Republic.*

The young man noticed something very extraordinary in his manner, and was much affected. At length he asked him what was the matter. He replied in effect that a superhuman influence or inspiration was upon him. Soon after he became very much excited on religious subjects … Witnesses stated that for several days at a time, during the last two or three years, he would act like a wild man or a raving maniac. During that time he was twice taken into the care of the overseers of the poor and kept some time as an insane person.

Heller’s neglect of his work soon exhausted his family’s modest reserves and left wife and children surviving on the charity of neighbors, spiraling Heller even deeper into depression, and in his “great horror of the poor house” he owned “that he would rather die than be separated from his family.” One hears in these words a man with the walls closing in about him … or else, a man hammering out the rationale for the madness he has already determined to undertake. There was calculation in Heller’s fatal outburst; a neighbor visited on the morning of his hecatomb and found the family in good spirits and Heller cogent. The disturbed patriarch waited until the guest was well away before he

took his axe from under the bed, went to the fire, turned round [and] commenced rubbing the fingers of one hand over the edge. His wife asked him what he was going to do — he replied he was going to chop some wood. About this time the woman told the children to get some apples out from under the bed. the two little ones immediately crawled under the bed, and the little sister-in-law stood near the bed looking at Heller. She saw him raise the axe and strike his wife one full blow about the chin and neck. Seeing this she sprang to the door, threw it open and fled for the nearest neighbor’s between a quarter and a half a mile off, crying murder as she ran. After she had fled some two hundred yards, she saw Heller come round the end of the house and look after her. Heller states that after he had despatched his wife he went out of the house and looked after the little girl — that he then went back into the house — his little boy came towards him, when he split him down and chopped his head off. He then dragged his little daughter Sarah out from under the bed — placed his foot upon her breast — she raised her hands for protection, and at the first blow he cut off the fingers of one hand and nearly took off her head. He then went and rolled the mother off of the infant on which she had partly fallen, and cut its head off.

His spiritual torments and probable schizophrenia here are the framework — a cynic might say, the excuse — for a much more commonplace scourge: the murderer said “in justification of the act ‘that they were likely to become a county charge, and that he would rather see them in their present situation.'” (Connecticut Courant, Mar. 21, 1836) In the confession he willingly supplied later, he admitted having attempted to set his homicidal plan in motion several times prior, once even brandishing a butcher’s blade over his wife like the Psycho shower scene before she soothed him. Elizabeth Heller must have been a woman of remarkable calm under pressure; unfortunately for her, resources for abused spouses were about as plentiful as those for the mentally ill.

“Nearly all … who know any thing about the case, regard it as incomprehensibly mysterious,” the newspaper reports concluded. “Many who know the most about it, say they hardly know how or what to think of it. It is doubted whether the annals of crime can produce a parallel case, and it is devoutly hoped they never may!”

But the annals of crime hold many mansions, as readers of this here site surely know.

Heller’s final, “successful” outburst was actually just one of a number of grisly mass-murders by family fathers who through the closely intimate exertion of a bloody blade drenched their domestic idylls with the gore of their loved ones — enough even to form a discernible pattern. Struggling to come to grips with this “homicidal insanity” or “monomanie-homicide”, the early American psychologist Isaac Ray lamented the “painful frequency” of cases “where the individual, without provocation or any other rational motive, apparently in the full possession of his reason, and oftentimes in spite of his most strenuous efforts to the contrary, imbrues his hands in the blood of others, — oftener than otherwise, of the partner of his bosom, of the children of his affections.” Incomprehensible perhaps, but scarcely unparalleled: what could make sense of this “horrid phenomenon”?

Pious family men turning Middle America domiciles into charnel houses was the going postal of settler-era America, and maybe Ray even had the Young/Heller-style addled religiosity in mind when he noted that absent some rational accounting the mind would default “to that time-honored solution of all the mysteries of human delinquency, the instigation of the devil.”

In a review of the period’s “familicide” cases, Daniel Cohen (“Homicidal Compulsion and the Conditions of Freedom: The Social and Psychological Origins of Familicide in America’s Early Republic,” Journal of Social History, Summer, 1995) speculates that the revolutionary grant of personal autonomy exacted a dangerous emotional toll upon men who felt themselves failures or simply could not pay “the high psychic costs of economic freedom, particularly for men prone to anxiety and depression.” Isaac was surely prone.

The efforts of those men to submit to supernatural authority were less single-minded pursuits of spiritual perfection than desperate attempts to evade seemingly irresolvable personal conflicts, most importantly between moral demands (or social obligations) and destructive urges or desires. It was ultimately less important for them to avoid sin than to resolve dilemmas or evade choice. When the breathless individual freedom of the early republic collided with the relentless responsibilities of paternal stewardship, the result was an implosion of self-destructive violence … the beginning not the end of a disturbing national tradition …

Many social barriers had fallen in post-Revolutionary America, but several unhappy men could still not control the rain, or the currency, or their own darker impulses. Where others may have perceived boundless opportunities, they experienced gnawing fears and terrifying compulsions. Situations of free choice did not inspire them with a “heady feeling of command” or a “sense of marvelous potential,” to use Robert Wiebe’s expansive phrases, but drove them instead to desperation. Physical unsettlement, economic insecurities, and religious speculations all combined to baffle and torment them. Unable to cope with the perplexities of life in a free society, they constructed internal imperatives to evade and annul that very freedom. By their actions, each tacitly endorsed John Cowan’s conclusion in prison: “Liberty would be more horrible to me than death.” Thus did a handful of troubled Americans confront freedoms profound enough to transform sober Christians into deluded visionaries, loving husbands into axe-wielding assassins, and tidy republican households into slaughterhouses.

Where Pennsylvania acquitted, Indiana convicted — but within even a few years the cooling of passions stirred by the slaughter led many to regret the judgment. According to this volume, even the judge later acknowledged that he ought to have set aside the verdict owing to Heller’s state of mind.

* We’re channeling this via the Gloucester (Mass.) Telegraph of May 4, 1836.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Hanged,History,Indiana,Murder,Public Executions,USA

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1865: Not Lambdin P. Milligan, ex parte man

Add comment May 19th, 2015 Headsman

This date in 1865 was the originally scheduled hanging of Indiana pro-slavery gadfly Lambdin P. Milligan — a sentence respited two days prior by President Andrew Johnson, and then subsequently commuted, for which reason Milligan survived to attach his surname to a landmark Supreme Court decision the following year.

During the Civil War, the state of Kentucky was a borderlands claimed by, and viciously fought over, by both North and South. “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky,” Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1861.

Kentucky’s northern neighbor, the Union breadbasket Indiana, had little fighting and no hint of Confederate power — but it was a hotbed of so-called “Copperheads”, northern Democrats who opposed Lincoln’s willingness to prosecute the civil war. So fraught was the Hoosier political situation that in 1862, Indiana’s Republican governor refused to call the Democrat-dominated legislature for fear that it might vote a secession bill or attempt to withdraw Indiana from the war.

The inevitable existence of northern domestic opposition to the war came joined at the hip to impossible statecraft conundrums. Just how much wartime dissent and/or resistance could be countenanced — as a legal matter, and a practical one? President Lincoln would not have received an A+ from the American Civil Liberties Union; he suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the Union and resorted to military tribunals and martial law in some places.

Our man Milligan was one of these Copperhead Indiana Democrats born to test Washington’s elasticity. He was an exponent of the Knights of the Golden Circle,* a pro-slavery secret society whose name denoted their aspiration to the antebellum filibusters‘ dream of a human-bondage empire to ring the Caribbean basin.

An attorney,** Milligan briefly became the toast of Democrats nationwide (whatever was left of the nation) for his robust defense of Clement Vallandigham when the former Congressman was prosecuted under the anti-Copperhead General Order 38.

At this point, Milligan was very well-known in what was then called the Northwest, and he was a major political player in Indiana — a pivotal state in the 1864 election.

But according to federal spies who tailed him in 1863-64, his interests in governance ran to more illicit grants of state power. Milligan was arrested in October 1864 as a principal in what was dubbed the “Northwestern Conspiracy”: a plot to mobilize the antiwar factions in that part of the country. This was no mere matter of pamphleteering; the “visionary and desperate” scheme aimed to prolong the hopes of the now-fading South by instigating an armed uprising in the Northwest that would relieve Union pressure on Dixie and perhaps turn the tide of the war.

Milligan was among several of the conspirators swept up in arrests in the following weeks, then tried by military tribunal for treason and sedition. It’s hard to argue that the plot was anything but.

But why a military court? This is the question in Milligan’s great legacy to posterity, the Supreme Court ruling Ex Parte Milligan.†

Milligan himself was not a soldier, and had not been in a war zone. He was a civilian, and Indiana’s regular civilian courts had never ceased to function. The question at stake in Milligan’s appeal to the Supreme Court was whether there was any legitimate recourse to a military tribunal under such conditions — well behind the lines, as it were.

On the morning of March 5, 1866, 34-year-old Republican U.S. Representative James Garfield — the future president whose assassin would command contentious caselaw all his own — strode into the U.S. Supreme Court to eloquently argue Milligan’s side.

“Such a doctrine,” Garfield intoned of the civilian courts’ being intentionally bypassed on national security grounds, “is too monstrous to be tolerated for a moment; and I trust and believe that … it will receive its just and final condemnation. Your decision will mark an era in American history. the just and final settlement of this great question will take a high place among the great achievements which have immortalized this decade. It will establish forever this truth, of inestimable value to us and to mankind, that a republic can wield the vast enginery of war without breaking down the safeguards of liberty; can suppress insurrection, and put down rebellion, however formidable, without destroying the bulwarks of law; can, by the might of its armed millions, preserve and defend both nationality and liberty … if the protection of the law shall, by your decision, be extended over every acre of our peaceful territory, you will have rendered the great decision of the century.

The high court found for Milligan unanimously, establishing as a constitutional bedrock Garfield’s proffered principle that civilian courts must try civilians wherever those courts are open, and ordered Milligan’s release. Although re-indicted by a civilian grand jury, Milligan was not re-prosecuted; he resumed his law practice and died near Fort Wayne, Indiana on December 21, 1899.

* Also known as the Sons of Liberty, a callback to revolutionary patriots.

** Milligan studied law in Ohio, his native soil; his class of nine also included Edwin M. Stanton — Lincoln’s War Secretary during the events of this post. Milligan himself reflected that “I should have probably been hung” but for his fortuitous ancient friendship with Stanton.

† Court precedents with names like Furman v. Georgia are most familiar to us, signifying two disputing parties; by contrast, the phrase ex parte (by/for the party) theoretically indicates a decision issued on behalf of the named party, without need of any opposing party’s intervention. (Ex parte Quirin is another notable death penalty case using this terminology.)

While the ex parte locution was once a common one for habeas corpus appeals, such cases were in practice almost invariably contested by some organ of the state — as Milligan’s was.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Indiana,Lawyers,Not Executed,Notable Jurisprudence,Pardons and Clemencies,Politicians,Power,Treason,USA,Wartime Executions

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1879: John Achey and William Merrick, the first hanged in Indianapolis

Add comment January 29th, 2015 Headsman

Indianapolis’s Marion County has hosted only four judicial executions in its history.

The first two of those occurred on this date in 1879.

Though founded only in 1820, the Circle City was no stranger to sensational crimes: they just had always managed to resolve themselves just short of the gallows. The Cold Spring Murders of 1868 had yielded only prison sentences; and William Clark, a drunk who shot his battered wife when she tried to escape his home, cheated an imminent hanging date with a lethal dose of morphine on New Year’s Eve, 1872.

On July 3, 1878 the governor of Indiana pardoned the Cold Spring Murderer William Abrams.

And then, in the words of this public-domain history of Greater Indianapolis, “came a carnival of blood.”

On July 16, John Achey, a gambler, killed George Leggett, a supposed partner whom he charged with robbing him, and who probably did.

On September 16, William Merrick, a livery-stable keeper, killed his wife under peculiarly atrocious circumstances — a woman whom he had seduced, robbed, and married to secure the dismissal of bastardy proceedings: and who sued for divorce before her child was born on account of bad treatment.

On September 19, Louis Guetig killed Mary McGlew, a waitress at his uncle’s hotel, who had declined to accept his attentions.

Achey might have escaped the death penalty but for the state of public mind caused by the combination. He was convicted on November 7 and sentenced to death.

Getig was convicted on November 28 and sentenced to death.

Merrick was convicted on December 13 and sentenced to death, the jury being out only eleven minutes.

They were all sentenced to be hanged on January 29, 1879, but Guetig’s case was appealed to the Supreme Court which reversed it on a sall technicality in an instruction.

Achey and Merrick were hanged at the same time, on one scaffold, in the jail yard, on January 29. Guetig was tried again, convicted, and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed this decision and he was hanged on September 29, 1879, at the same place.

Only one other Indianapolis hanging — that of Robert Phillips on April 8, 1886, for a jealous murder-suicide attempt that only achieved one of those two things — took place before the Indianapolis legislature in 1889 mandated all future hangings go off at the state prison.

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1936: Harry Singer, in the holiday spirit

Add comment December 26th, 2013 Robert Elder

(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post. This post originally appeared on the Last Words blog. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)

(Said to a guard) “The chair will be a good enough [Christmas] present for me.”

— Harry Singer, convicted of murder, electric chair, Indiana.
Executed December 26, 1936

The twenty-five-year-old former farmhand kept mostly to himself Christmas Day, playing checkers and eating “heartily,” according to the Associated Press. Few details of the crime have survived, except the names of his victims: Mr. and Mrs. John Wesley Kaufman and their daughter, age twelve. In prison, Singer also confessed to the murder of Joseph Bryant, age twenty, of Detroit.

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1936: George W. Barrett, the first to hang for killing an FBI man

11 comments March 24th, 2013 Meaghan

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

On this date in 1936, Kentucky native George W. Barrett was hanged in Lockport, Indiana.

A rather nasty but ordinary enough career criminal specializing in car theft, Barrett also dabbled in murder. According to Keven McQueen’s book Offbeat Kentuckians: Legends to Lunatics, in 1930 he shot to death his elderly mother and his sister (who lingered for an extended time before dying of pneumonia, the consequence of her wounds), but pleaded “self-defense.”

Two juries were unable to reach a verdict.

Minor detail: Barrett’s cousin, Frank Baker, was the prosecutor in that case, and observers noted he appeared rather less than zealous about convicting his relative; the judge even remarked that Baker sounded more like Barrett’s defense attorney.

After his 1931 murder trial, a decidedly ungrateful Barrett allegedly murdered Frank Baker.

At his 1933 trial in that case he got a hung jury again, in spite of the fact that the only relative of his involved in the trial was the victim.

FBI agent Nelson Klein: shot dead in Ohio, but his killer hanged in Indiana.

Third time’s the charm: Barrett finally got his just deserts on December 7, 1935, when he was convicted of murdering FBI Agent Nelson B. Klein. The jurors stayed out for two days, but supposedly they decided on his guilt long before then and only wanted a few more free meals.

Barrett had killed Agent Klein in a shootout on August 14, 1935; before dying, Klein shot back, hitting Barrett in the legs and crippling him. The other agent involved in the gunfight, Donald McGovern, was unscathed and arrested Barrett.

There was an interesting dispute as to which state had jurisdiction over the crime; the agents had been standing in College Corner, Ohio, but the killer fired his shots from a position 22 feet over the Indiana state line. In the end, Indiana got the honors.

A recent federal law had mandated the death sentence for anyone convicted of killing an FBI agent. Barrett was the first to die under the new law; another man who’d murdered two agents in 1934 got a life sentence in Alcatraz.

The leg wounds Barrett suffered in his last shootout never healed. He attended his trial in a wheelchair and ultimately had to be carried to the gallows.

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1981: Steven T. Judy, Hoosier rapist

Add comment March 9th, 2013 Robert Elder

(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post on the anniversary of what was then the first execution in Indiana for nearly 20 years. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Elder’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)

“I don’t hold no grudges. I’m sorry it happened. I know what I’m doing.”

— Steven T. Judy, convicted of rape and murder, electric chair, Indiana.
Executed March 9, 1981

A serial rapist, Judy openly courted capital punishment. At his trial for killing a woman and her three children (ages five, four, and two), Judy told a jury to condemn him or else he might kill them, their children, and the judge. He showed no remorse for the murders, telling reporters, “I don’t lose sleep over it.” Judy asked for death. “I’ve lived my hell,” he said. “So [what waits for me] has to be better.”

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Electrocuted,Execution,Indiana,Murder,Rape,USA,Volunteers

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1820: Amasa Fuller, the Indiana hero

Add comment August 14th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1820, Amasa Fuller was hanged for murdering his rival in love.

“I am a man, and have acted the part of a man!” he declared when taken standing over the still-expiring body of his victim, Palmer Warren. “I glory in the deed!”

It’s one of those problematic constructions of manhood that might do for a graduate thesis.

Our man-actor from the town of Lawrenceburg (and from a star-crossed family with a pattern of violent deaths) had been courting assiduously a “young lady”. Apropos of that graduate thesis, the historical records basically don’t even mention her name; according to a single newspaper article cited in Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music, it was “Catharine Farrar”. The court records generally just call her the “young lady,” even adding that she was “not handsome,” as in “why are you people committing homicide over this prize?”

But let’s just say Miss Farrar was really great. And Amasa Fuller was really smitten.

Having wooed Farrar into an engagement, Fuller was incensed when he found out that she’d been swooped by a rival while he, Fuller, was away on a business trip. Murder by Gaslight has illuminated the fuller story of Fuller’s revenge; in fine, he returned to Lawrenceburg, and after several unsuccessful attempts to start a scrap with his rival, Fuller forced his way into Palmer’s office, offered him a pistol for a duel, and when the peacable Palmer again refused to fight, Fuller just plain shot him — right through the heart.

Strangely from our retrospective standpoint, the good people of Lawrenceburg viewed Fuller not so much as an unbalanced stalker as, well, the Indiana hero — a man of honor. After Fuller’s conviction,* Lawrenceburg and its surrounding Dearborn County petitioned almost en masse for Fuller’s pardon.

When they didn’t get it, they settled for an execution ballad, “Fuller and Warren”, that lauds “brave Fuller” standing “like an angel” on the scaffold’s trap. (Right before the rope broke.)

This ballad has some bitter words for the near-anonymous object of Fuller’s heart who “robbed him of his honour and his life”: “Cursed be she who has caused this misery; / In his stead she had ought for to die.” And it’s not much kinder to womankind in general:

Of all the ancient history that I can understsnd,
Which we’re bound by the scripture to believe,
Bad women are essentially the downfall of man,
As Adam was beguiled by Eve.

So, young men, beware, be cautious and be wise
Of such women when you’re courting for wives.
Look in Genesis, and Judges, and in Samuel, Kings, and Job,
And the truth of the doctrine you’ll find.

For marriage is a lottery and few gain the prize
That’s both pleasing to the heart and to the eye.
So those who never marry may well be called wise.
So, gentlemen, excuse me; goodbye.

(Some versions of the ballad — there are dozens of variations on record — omit these last and nastiest stanzas.)

* He was prosecuted by future U.S. Congressman Amos Lane, about whom, more in this 1930 JSTOR offering.

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