On this date in 1951, Eliseo (sometimes rendered “Elisio”) Mares was shot in Utah for murder.
He was condemned for the 1946 murder of an Ohio sailor en route to California for his marriage. (Mares claimed self-defense.) The wait for his execution — “five long years,” Mares told a reporter* after he lost his last appeal — was unusually protracted for the time.
By the time his case had wended its way through the courts, county-managed executions had been consolidated at the state prison at Point of the Mountain. Mares was the first put to death there.
Not until 25 years later, in a reminiscence by one of the witnesses, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Clark Lobb, was it disclosed that Mares “died silently and horribly.” Two of the four bullets fired from 15 feet away struck Mares in the hip and abdomen. It was several minutes before the prisoner was declared dead.
This source speculates that the poor marksmanship was intentional, but whether intentional or not, it must have been an appalling spectacle.
The sheriff directing the proceedings immediately began pushing for a switch to away from the error-prone firing squad to the gas chamber. (No dice, although the 1955 legislature did approve a switch to electrocution that fell through for want of funding.)
* UP wire report quoted in the New York Times, Sept. 9, 1951.
Part of the Themed Set: Americana.