1876: Four for the Mutiny on the Lennie

1 comment May 23rd, 2013 dogboy

As criminals go, the Lennie mutineers were neither organized nor gifted. Indeed, they likely did not fancy themselves mutineers when they perpetrated a triple-murder of the officer corps on board the vessel during high seas.

Matteo Cargalis, Pascalis Caludis, George Kaida, and Giovanni Carcaris were hanged on this date for that “atrocious conspiracy” in Newgate prison’s largest mass execution behind closed doors.

As they say, you get what you pay for, and Captain Stanley Hatfield apparently didn’t pay too well. His ragtag crew of multinationals — Turks, Greeks, Dutch, Belgians, and possibly others (Hatfield himself was a Canadian) — was in it for the money when the vessel left Antwerp bound for New Orleans on 24 October 1875.

The circumstances of the mutiny’s start are hazy, but what is clear is that the entire ship’s complement excluding first officer, cabin boy, and steward were on deck in heavy seas about 10 days out. What seems to have been a minor labor dispute resulted in Hatfield and Second Mate Richard Macdonald being summarily dispatched by stabbing; the first mate, Joseph Wortley, was sought out below and shot in his quarters.

Since the crew was all in now, the murderers and a small group of associates pressed the remainder of the deckhands into service. The two remaining persons belowdecks were now let out. The Belgian steward, Constant von Hoydonck (spelled in various ways, but Anglicized in what seems to be the most popular way), and the cabin boy, Henri Trousselot, were given the option to join the rest of the crew.

To the now-leaderless and ill-educated rebellious deck crew, Von Hoydonck’s literacy made him was the best hope of finding safe harbor, and Von Hoydonck hammed it up like Mark Hamill going on about Tosche Station.

Trousselot was worth little (though he was also literate), and he gamely followed Von Hoydonck’s lead and elected to join the mutineers.

The rest of the tale reads like a Hardy Boys story, with an implausible plot built around incompetent characters.

Apparently, one of the Greek crew members knew someone back home that he felt would be interested in the vessel, so the crew now had a “plan”. All they needed was a quick trip through the Strait of Gibraltar followed by a trip across the Mediterranean, and they were home free! Von Hoydonck volunteered to navigate the course to the Strait, but rather than head southeast, he led the ship straight back toward the French coast.

The details of the voyage, embellished and colorfully littered with age-appropriate judgments about Greeks, were handled by the newspaper “The Age” in 1958:

When France was sighted he brazenly told them it was Spain, and sailed along the coast.

When they asked why he hugged the shore, he told them it was to avoid the chief traffic routes and the consequent danger of being hailed by another ship…

By November 14 he had navigated the Lennie between the Isle of Rhe and the French mainland. In spite of rough seas he brought the ship almost within hailing distance of the short and then calmly ordered the anchor to be let go.

This was carried out promptly enough by the slow-thinking mutineers, but after some ten minutes what intelligence they had started to function, and they swarmed round remanding to know why they were at anchor.

[Von Hoydonck] surveyed them coldly and pointed out that that the coast of Spain (which, of course, was some 250 miles away) was rocky and dangerous, and as they could not risk standing out into the traffic lanes they must anchor here until the heavy sea subsided.

The mutineers were not satisfied with this explanation and angrily threatened to send him after the ship’s officers.

[Von Hoydonck], playing his part superbly, indignantly informed them that as they seemed to have so little faith in his handling of the ship they could sail her themselves. He then went below, slamming the companion door behind him as if in a temper.

Von Hoydonck then had Trousselot write up notices of the mutiny in French, English, and Dutch; these letters were placed in a dozen or more bottles and slipped out a port hole, hopefully to quickly reach shore. Meanwhile, the mutineers decided they really needed that navigationally competent steward and urgently repaired relations with him.

The storm subsided during the night and Von Hoydonck got some sleep. By morning, the mutineers had taken the initiative, and they rounded the Isle of Rhe and traced down the Isle of Oleron toward a lighthouse that — to the geographically confused crew — looked mighty like the Pillars of Hercules.

Unfortunately, it failed to meet the one critical test: the pinch of island and shore lacked the distinctive Rock of Gibraltar.


… and Gibraltar’s distinctive Barbary Apes.

Von Hoydonck offered the lame excuse that, instead of risking the Mediterranean, he had led them to a nearly uninhabited part of the French coast, where they could get off the boat without risk of being found out. Six of the more aggressive members of the mutineers took this bait, so they hopped a life boat and scuttled to shore.

Five mutineers now remained, and none of them was particularly big on the cause. So Von Hoydonck followed up his successful bluff by clambering up the rigging in the dead of night to raise the flag of distress. He then took to the deck with a pair of revolvers and waited for morning.

The bottles had done their job, and the French man-of-war Tirailleur was dispatched immediately when authorities heard of the trouble; her crew quickly spotted the Lennie.

The six who had gone ashore were almost as swiftly rounded up on the mainland.

In all, eight of the 11 on board were put on trial, and only the four implicated directly in the murders of the officers were found guilty* and sentenced to death.

At the time, the Lennie was quite well-known; the actions of Von Hoydonck were celebrated in the local press, and the crown awarded Von Hoydonck 50 pounds for his actions.**

Strangely, the ship’s story has slipped into obscurity,† perhaps because reality in this case sounds like a plot written for 8-year-olds.

* Though the vessel’s occupants had mutinied, the British had the crew extradited under charges of murder. Two of the defendants were released by the technicalities of the extradition treaty.

** Constant von Hoydonck went on to own a pub in Middlesex and was bankrupt by 1892. Henri Trousselot moved to New Zealand, where he and others are memorialized for attending to a double shipwreck in Timaru; he lived to 66.

† The Record of Yarmouth Shipping reports that the Lennie was refitted and carried on to New Orleans with a new crew.

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1862: Margaret Coghlan, the last woman hanged in Tasmania

Add comment February 18th, 2013 Meaghan

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

On this date in 1862, Margaret Coghlan (sometimes spelled “Coughlin” or “Coghlin”) was hanged in Tasmania, Australia for the murder of her husband.

Described as a “gray-headed old woman,” Margaret was, like many residents of the colony, a transported convict.

The murder happened on January 5, less than six weeks before Margaret’s date with death. It was a fairly typical domestic homicide: the Coghlans had a drunken quarrel and Margaret’s husband threw an iron bar at her. He missed and she picked it up and beat him until he was unconscious and perhaps dead.

This much might be colored self-defense, but then Margaret administered coup de grâce by slitting her husband’s throat.

In an act worthy of one of those “dumb criminals” books, she then placed the razor in her husband’s own hand to try to make it look like he committed suicide. But the authorities did not believe the man could have beaten himself to death with the iron bar, cut his throat afterwards and left someone else’s fingerprints in blood on the razor.

According to newspaper coverage of the event, Margaret made the usual scaffold speech acknowledging the justice of her sentence and the foulness of her crime:

I acknowledge fully the justice of my sentence, I deserve this, and a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for the horrible crime I have committed. Drink, the curse that has been on me, strong drink, has caused all my misery—everything has been sacrificed for strong drink … May all forgive me whom I have injured, offended, or scandalised, by my evil living.

She was hanged by Solomon Blay, “the colony’s most unpopular public servant.” He was a convict like Margaret, transported from England after he pleaded guilty to counterfeiting. Margaret would turn out to be the last woman hanged in Tasmania, although the state didn’t abolish the death penalty for more than a hundred years after her execution.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Australia,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Other Voices,Public Executions,Women

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1927: Huibrecht Jacob de Leeuw, dynamiter

1 comment September 30th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1927, Huibrecht Jacob de Leeuw was hanged for blowing up the mayor of Dewetsdorp, South Africa.

This 26-year-old town clerk had spent himself into debt and started dipping his beak in the public finances to tide him over. Unfortunately for him, the malfeasance was detected.

On April 7, 1927, Mayor von Maltitz openly accused him of corruption at a meeting with the town’s finance committee; the session was adjourned for lunch pending the apparently imminent sack of the young wastrel.

When the committee reconvened (less de Leeuw), it was suddenly blown to smithereens by an explosion.

All three died, but two survived long enough to tell investigators what they’d been working on. As Robin Odell observes in his Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes,

De Leeuw had succeeded in destroying his accusers, along with the damning evidence of the account books but was now a prime murder suspect. He was sent for trial at Bloemfontein in August 1927. A town hall employee testified that he saw two cans of petrol in the town clerk’s office on the day of the explosion. And a local shopkeeper described how de Leeuw had appeared in her shop that afternoon in an agitated state saying, “I only want some matches.”

Clearly, what de Leeuw’s crime packed in megajoules it lacked in subtlety. Even had he made clean kills and left no deathbed implications, it’s hard to imagine how the trail wouldn’t have led right back to the guy who was just in the room with all the victims.

There’s a chapter on this fellow (more words than this author has found for him anywhere else) in a long-out-of-print 1951 South African volume, The Evil that Men Do, by Benjamin Bennett.

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1825: Stephen Videto, Indian giver

2 comments August 26th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1825, Stephen Videto was hanged in Franklin County, New York, for murder.

This History of Clinton and Franklin Counties misstates the execution date but otherwise sums the matter up nicely. Videto found himself yoked to an engagement he’d come to regard as disagreeable.

Rather than just break the thing off,* he arranged — so the jury found, though Videto always denied it — to kill the poor woman. (Literally poor. Her last husband had left her, abandoning her penniless.)

Videto contrived a whole scenario where the colored man was lurking around his house … the red-colored man, in this case. Scary Indians.

Claiming to be spooked by encounters with mysterious native prowlers, Videto armed himself up; sure enough, one night soon, an Indian shot into his bedroom and started a firefight. The perennially discarded Fanny Mosley was killed in the crossfire.

For the apparent calculation that went into this cover story, Videto was awfully careless about the details. As rudimentary as crime scene forensics were in 1825, it was still self-evident that the glass in the window had been shot outward, not inward; and, that the ball causing Mosley’s fatal wound had likewise originated from within the house, not without. And come to think of it, the “Indian footprints” outside that window looked an awful lot like Videto’s own. And nobody else had ever seen these Indian stalkers Videto was on about — not that night, nor in his buildup of the preceding days.

The evidence might be circumstantial, but those were a whole lot of circumstances. The jury took 15 minutes to convict him, although Videto maintained his innocence to the last — even waving a written declaration of such to the onlookers after the trap fell, while he was strangling to death.

We have a letter from a witness to this hanging, a Vermont silversmith named William Ransom Vilas:**

After a large concourse of people had assembled which was estimated at six or eight thousand, [Videto] was then taken from his place of confinement and conducted by the sherif and guard of seven independent companies to the place of his execution. Then, with 2 assistants, he ascended the gallows, where a discourse was delivered by Elder [Nathaniel] Culver from Luke 13th 23, in which he pointed out to him awful situation and then he protested his innocence of the crime alledged against him and likewise stated that he was no way accessory. Then after giveing a parting hand to each one of his attendants and to a Brother, which was all the relation of his present, his hands were then bound; the rope about his neck was then fastened, and the moment was at hand. The fatal stud was then nock-d out, and now, do not you see him in your imagination hung & strangling. O twas a solemn sight, but the laws must be put in execution.

Although he protested his innocence, it (is) generally believed that he was guilty but protested innocence on account of the conexions. Thus it is that we see man snached from the hand of existence by the Executioner, thus we may justly say “the wicked do not live out half their days.” He (had) a long trial and without doubt an impartial one. But we are frail mortals all hastening to our Mother, ____our joys are like the morning dew before the morning sun. They pass we know not where and we are led to reflection:

Mortals behold the hour glass.
And leave your wordly care
It shows how swift our minutes pass
And bids us all for death prepare.

* Possible motivation for preferring homicide to a breakup: his “beloved” was pregnant.

** As a Vermont Vilas, we suppose that this writer was probably related to politician Levi Baker Vilas and to his (future, at this point) son, eventual U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior William Freeman Vilas.

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1927: Three persistent escapees

1 comment July 15th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1927, Illinois conducted a public triple hanging, actually among the last public hangings in the state’s history.*

Charlie Duschowski, Walter Stalesky, Charles Shader, Roberto Torrez, Gregario Rizo and Barnardo Roa had busted out of the old Collins Street Prison in Joliet, along with a seventh man named James Price. In the process, they killed Assistant Warden, and former policeman, Peter Klein.

This has dirty Chicago politics from the Prohibition era all over it.

The events angered much of the general public, but among Chicago Mexicans, the fugitives became heroes. Will County officials investigated allegations that Klein belonged to a parole-selling ring headed by Will Colvin, chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The newspapers also reported that Chicago police had arrested Klein for selling bootleg liquor while still warden and for allowing prisoners to leave the prison and commit robberies so they could raise money for paroles. (Source)

At any rate, six of the men — all but James Price — were recaptured and condemned to die.

However, friends and relatives of the “doomed” Mexican trio began smuggling in saw blades with their care packages, and by March 1927, Rizo and Roa were hard at work sawing through their bars while the songbird Torrez covered them by belting out La Paloma for days on end.

Roa made a clean getaway, but Rizo and Torrez were taken after a few days in a south Chicago shootout. Now the proposed gallows club was down to five.

Nothing daunted, the three white folk in the party attempted their own breakout by picking their cell lock — joined by Rizo, who would find that the third time was not the charm. Taking sheriff Alfred E. Markgraf hostage, they attempted to drive out of the jail yard: Rizo was shot dead in the resulting fusillade, but somehow Charles Shader managed to scramble away in the mayhem as his compatriots were being re-arrested.

So now, with Shader, Roa, and Price on the lam and Rizo on the ice, only three guys remained to hang.

Left to right: Duschowski, Stalesky, and Torrez.

Notwithstanding the abysmal retention percentage, the prospect of a public triple hanging was a tremendous draw — no less so for the elusive desperadoes’ talent for grabbing headlines afresh every few weeks. A raucous crowd pressed around a sizable detail of riflemen who had good reason to suspect one last bid for freedom. (In a failure of showmanship, that did not happen.) The widow of the original victim even petitioned to throw the trap to drop them. (Ditto.)

So nothing remained but to visit justice upon them.

But not only upon them.

According to the July 17, 1927 Chicago Tribune, the curiosity of the spectacle made it an irresistible lure to yet another fugitive. What was it about Illinois jails in the Roaring Twenties?

Lincoln, Ill., July 16. — (AP) Albert “Blackie” Logan, escaped prisoner from the Logan county jail, is under arrest again here today, awaiting trial for safecracking. Logan ventured from concealment to see the three murderers of Deputy Warden Peter Klein hanged at Joliet. He was recognized by the sheriff.

As for the three escapees:

  • Shader was recaptured and hanged on October 10, 1928. It was the last hanging in the state’s history.
  • Price made it to New York, where he eventually wound up in prison for robbery. Illinois got him back in 1937, gave him a long prison term, and eventually paroled the guy in the 1960s.
  • Roa made it to Mexico, dodged a couple of near-miss extradition attempts, and was never returned to the tender mercies of Illinois. His fate after 1948 (the last time he was arrested, and an extradition fell through) is unknown.

* They were also the first executed in July of 1927, which was important because July 1 was the date Illinois adopted a switch to the electric chair. The change was not retroactive to crimes before that date, however, so it was the gallows for these fellows and several others into the following year.

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2010: Paul Warner Powell, jurisprudentially confused

5 comments March 18th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 2010, Paul Warner Powell was electrocuted in Virginia — the last human being, as of this writing, to be put to death by that method, although he is not likely to retain that distinction long-term.

However many might be yet to ride the lightning, it is doubtful that any will usurp this virulent racist’s place on dumbest-criminals lists.

Powell confronted a 16-year-old acquaintance about her relationship with an African-American, and in the altercation that followed our man stabbed Stacie Reed in the heart.

Then the charmer laid in wait in the house for the return of Stacie’s 14-year-old sister, whom he raped and left (so he thought) stabbed to death in the basement. Kristie Reed survived an abdomen wound and a slashed throat.

So far, just a regular malevolent criminal.

But his fate turned on a small legal technicality followed by a monumentally foolish blunder.

Initially death-sentenced for the murder (of Stacie) aggravated by the rape (of Kristie), that sentence was vacated by the Commonwealth’s high court on the grounds that rape could only aggravate the murder into a capital crime if it was the murder victim (Stacie) who was raped. Prosecutors had not shown that.

Erroneously believing this decision to have freed him from any risk of execution thanks to double jeopardy, Powell then proceeded to scribble a lengthy jeering diatribe to his prosecutor “to show you how stupid all of y’all mother fuckers are.”

The entire very profane letter is here. Apart from its intrinsically monstrous narrative, it made this very unwise admission about how things went with the murder victim Stacie:

I told her that all I wanted to do was fuck her and then I would leave and that we could do it the easy way or the hard way.

… she got up and started fighting with me and clawed me face. We wrestled around a little and then I slammed her to the floor. When she hit the floor I sat on top of her and pinned her hands down again. She said she would fuck me and I told her that if she tried fighting with me again, I would kill her.

This freely-confessed attempted rape (it was not consummated — hence the state’s previous inability to charge it) qualified as the exact aggravating factor whose want had just enabled Powell to escape death row. And in fact, prosecutors were able to use it to try Powell for his life once again. This time, they got him — and it stuck.*

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Powell, it turned out, was an energetic correspondent.

Apart from the aforementioned lethal missive, he posted other bigoted mash notes to his prosecutor “Fat Ebert”; he sent menacing taunts to the victims’ mother Lorraine Whoberry; and he even began swapping racy billets-doux with the married forewoman of his first jury who, guilt-stricken at having sent a man to his death, started writing the murderer and wound up falling for him and testifying on his behalf at his second sentencing.

Just a bizarre case all around.

Whoberry, the mother of Stacie and Kristie and the woman whom Powell had crudely harassed by mail from prison, founded the STACIE Foundation to teach compassion for violent crime victims. Whoberry even had some compassion of her own for Powell, eventually forgiving him; the two spoke amicably by phone on the night before Powell’s execution.**

* This raises our periodic reminder to anyone who should come to be of interest in a legal investigation not to talk to the police, period.

However, it is our firm conviction that Executed Today attracts a caliber of reader who intuit the inadvisability of confessing one’s capital crimes in florid written detail.

** Forgiveness or no, Whoberry did continue to support Powell’s execution.

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1961: Robert McGladdery, the last execution in Northern Ireland

Add comment December 20th, 2011 Headsman

Northern Ireland checks in today at a half-century death penalty-free, dating back to the hanging this date in 1961 of Robert McGladdery.

An agricultural laborer and “well known bad lad”, McGladdery followed a young woman named Pearl Gamble out of a dance hall one night and strangled and stabbed her. It became an open-and-shut case when the police tail surveilling him witnessed McGladdery tramping into some undergrowth where his bloody dance-hall clothes were stashed.

This was all the more remarkable because McGladdery knew he was being watched. In fact, the Daily Mail later got into hot water with the crown because it went and interviewed the suspect: that interview was published while McGladdery was still free, the day before he decided to pay his respects to the evidence that could hang him.*

The case is the subject of the BBC “dramatised documentary” Last Man Hanging, as well as a couple of books.

Books about Robert McGladdery

(Review of Orchid Blue.)

* See London Times, Feb. 18, 1962.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Ireland,Milestones,Murder

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1934: Three inept murderers (with a fourth to come)

3 comments June 8th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1934, three members of a quartet that had — eventually, with Keystone Cops ineptitude — killed a vagrant in an insurance scam during the Great Depression were electrocuted at Sing Sing.

Mike Malloy, the victim of Daniel Kriesberg, Anthony Marino and Frank Pasqua (and Joseph Murphy, whose execution this day was stayed, but who followed his collaborators to the chair on July 5 of that same year), has chiseled out a weirdly Bunyanesque footnote of Americana as “the man who wouldn’t die.”*

The troubles the would-be murderers had getting rid of the 50-year-old drunk after they conned him into signing less than $2,000 worth of insurance papers are outright black comedy. The New York Daily News remembered this noteworthy homicide last year. Yes, it’s murder, but it happened 75 years ago. Go ahead and laugh.

After several weeks of feeding Malloy free liquor [in an attempt to have him drink to death], Marino noted that it was starting to cost him money. More distressing was Malloy’s health: His pallor had lifted and spirits soared courtesy of the free booze. More active measures would be required to hasten Malloy’s demise.

Murphy, a former chemist, told Malloy that some “new stuff” had come in. Malloy drank it, commented on how smooth it tasted and then collapsed to the floor. They dragged him to the back room and anticipated that they would need to pay off a physician for a “hush job” death certificate.

One hour later, a refreshed Malloy bounded back to the bar with a mighty thirst, unaffected by the alcohol Murphy had laced with car antifreeze.

Over the next few days the gang spiked Malloy’s drinks with stronger doses of antifreeze, then turpentine and, finally, horse liniment with rat poison. Malloy kept beaming and kept drinking, soaking up the good times spent with his new friends. The crew decided a switch to food would best hasten Malloy’s death.

Marino served him raw oysters – soaked in wood alcohol. After downing two dozen, Malloy was so enthused by the cuisine that he encouraged Marino to open up a restaurant. The next course included an entrée of rotten sardines mixed with tin shavings. Same result.

Next, the plotters got Malloy stupefied and escorted him to Claremont Park, stripped off his coat, and in the middle of winter opened his shirt and poured 5 gallons of water on him before dumping him into a snowbank. If poisoned liquor and food couldn’t kill Malloy, then the cold blasts of a New York winter would.

Or so they thought. The next evening, Malloy showed up at the speakeasy wearing a new suit. He had really tied one on the night before, he explained, and wound up nearly naked in the park. Fortunately, the police had found him and a welfare organization outfitted him with new clothes.

Exasperated, the gang hired a cab driver, Harry Green, and offered him $150 to run Malloy down with his vehicle. On Jan. 30, 1933, a nearly unconsciously drunk Malloy was driven from Marino’s to Pelham Parkway. Murphy stood him up in the middle of the roadway, and Green backed up his taxi two full blocks to build up enough speed to complete the job. Somehow, Malloy stumbled to safety. They then took Malloy to Gun Hill Road. This time, Green hit him.

The gang gleefully retreated to Marino’s and again waited for an announcement of Malloy’s demise. For days nothing appeared in the newspapers.

Where was he? Malloy was recovering in the hospital under a different name, having sustained a fractured skull, a concussion and a broken shoulder. The indestructible barfly returned several weeks later to the speakeasy and announced he had an awful thirst. The boys’ jaws dropped.

Now desperate, they contacted a professional hit man, but his $500 fee was too expensive. They then shanghaied another drunk, Joe Murray, stupefied him with liquor and stuffed his coat pocket with Malloy’s ID and ran him over with a cab. Murray, a substitute for Malloy in every way, recovered from his injuries after two months in Lincoln Hospital. The only way to knock off Malloy, the gang determined, was murder, clean and simple.

They finally had to stuff a rubber hose down his maw and gas him through it.

Astonishingly, this blockheaded crew came within a fingernail’s breadth of getting away with it, just as they’d gotten away with their innumerable attempted murders** — evidence, really, of just how overrated an achievement the “perfect crime” is. A little baksheesh for a death certificate with a fake cause-of-death, a quick trip to the pauper’s cemetery, and they had already set about collecting the insurance policies before anyone got suspicious.

With four shiftless conspirators and at least two other people who’d been let in on the plot, though, once the sniffing started, their goose was cooked. Soon enough, so were the killers. And it only took the state of New York one try apiece.

* The young Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories television show dramatized this implausible story. Why The X-Files never made use of it, no one can say.

** The Daily News reckons it at six; a 1934 New York Times piece counted 10. The investigation suggested that they’d actually done someone else for insurance before, using the winter exposure method that Malloy survived.

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