1860: William Fee, the only person hanged in Wayne County 1586: Saint Margaret Clitherow, pressed Catholic

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

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.

On this day..

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

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19 thoughts on “1936: George W. Barrett, the first to hang for killing an FBI man”

  1. Siri Reichelt says:

    Note for the Headsman-the crime took place on August 16, 1935, not the 14. Also, if anyone’s wondering where the heck is West College Corner, IN/College Corner, OH, it’s about an hour NW of Cincinnati. I hope this clears up the confusion!

  2. Cathy Hadler Henderson says:

    My grandmother was Laura Barrett Willey Hadler. Her father (my great grandfather) was Robert Lee Barrett who was brother of George Barrett. When her mother Elizabeth (Lizzie) divorced Robert she married Walter Willey and my grandmother took the Willey name. I’d be interested if I have other relatives out there.

    1. Timothy W McHone says:

      My grandmother was George Barrett’s first cousin. Her name was Bessie Barrett McHone and her father was Joseph Barrett, brother to William, father to George.
      Thus George was my Dad’s (Tom McHone) uncle and he remembered him well. Dad told us many stories about those days. Dad and his brothers and cousins always loved it when Uncle George would come around because he always had a lot of money and would give the kids change.
      My Dad, who was a professor at Eastern Ky University, wrote extensively about George, the Barrett’s, The McHone’s, and other collateral families such as the Gabbards, The Bolins/Bowlings (George’s Mom, who was commonly referred to as, “Old Nance of the hills” was a Bolin/Bowling [the spelling changed depending on who was doing the spelling]), the Bakers, the Hensleys, Hornsbys, Rogers, etc.

      1. Cathy says:

        Mr. McHone,
        I am interesting in speaking with you about George W. Barrett. How can I correspond with you outside of this forum?
        Thank you!

  3. Petar says:

    I will never understand why people are so proud of being related to a criminal/murderer…

    1. Martin says:

      Who said anything about being proud to be his relative?

  4. Brandi James says:

    Not for sure but my grandmas family is from the same area (Kentucky and Indiana). Her maiden name is Barrett. I’m pretty sure I’m related to him!

  5. Josh lainhart says:

    George w Barrett was my grandma, Dovie McQueen Lainhart’s uncle. Her mother was Lucy Barrett, sister to George Barrett. I am very intrigued by all family ancestry research info. I would love for anybody with info on Mr. Barrett or any family stuff to email it to me please. Thank you so much

    Sincerely, Josh Lainhart

  6. R C Lunsford says:

    My dad saw George Barrett kill his mother and shoot his sister in 1930. Dad was 10 years old. My grandfather testified at the trial.

    1. Cathy says:

      Mr. Lunsford,
      I would like to talk with you about George W. Barrett. How can I correspond with you outside of this forum?
      Thank you!

  7. shar says:

    My Great Great Uncle….

    1. Barbara says:

      He was cousin to my great grand mother. I remember hearing this story from my great grandfather and father.

  8. gary barrett says:

    Yea my uncle George Barrett told me a lot about him when I was younger.my grandmother was there when he shot his mom ans sister.

    1. Jeff Barrett says:

      i am related and would love to know more about my family please email me at noseydad1979@yahoo.com

  9. George W. Barrett (Diamond King) is actually my great great uncle. My father told me of him.

    1. Jeff Barrett says:

      email me please, i am also related to george barrett. noseydad1979@yahoo.com

    2. gary barrett says:

      Mr Madden I’m actually named after your dad. My father was Jesse barrett and his brother was George barrett your dad’s mom was their sister.My grandma was Mabel barrett

      1. Jessica Gardner says:

        George was my Grandpa Virgil Barrett’s great uncle. I just went and saw the marker they put up in college corner. Any family is welcome to contact me.

        1. Abbey says:

          Hi Jessica. We are related in some way. I am interested in learning more. I just seen a photo posted of your grandfather or great grandfather yesterday that I wanted to know if you have or want. Hope to hear from you.

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