2 April 1962 – Elmo Smith

The last ever electric chair execution in Pennsylvania was saved for the ever so coolly named Elmo Smith.

His crime, on the other hand, was not so cool. He’d been sentenced to death for raping and murdering 17-year-old Mary Ann Mitchell in 1959.

Are fiends electric?

In a shock turnaround, the US state deemed that the electric chair was unconstitutional amid outcries that it was an inhumane method, based on compelling evidence of burns and ruptured blood cells from previous victims. From that point on, the lethal injection became Pennsylvania’s preferred method of dispatch.

But not so for our man Smith – he was strapped to Old Sparky on this day in 1962 and 2,000 volts were shot from his shaved head and out through his ankle.

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45 Responses to “2 April 1962 – Elmo Smith”

  1. Expert Says:

    Lethal injection was not introduced by legislation in Pennsylvania until late in 1990. The electric chair was dismantled in 1971 at the order of Attorney General Fred Speaker, who was visiting the Rockview prison and was dismayed by the atmosphere of the death chamber. It was reassembled in the early 1980’s as the death penalty came back into effect following the Furman/Gregg decisions turnabout. It was never used again and today sits under a dropcloth in the attic of the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission in Harrisburg.

  2. Jay Flagg Says:

    Bring it back! I’d rather have my cortex shut off instantly than have salt injected into my veins. Stuff burns. I figure I’ll probably get the Death Penalty in the next ten years, if I can’t get a handle on my situation.

  3. Even though I was only 11 years old when this horrific crime was comitted, I recall the story being told to me by one of Mary Ann Mitchell’s best friends at the time, which by no small coincidence, happened to be my cousin Anne Marie.
    The crime horrified people all over the area, especially the Conshohocken, PA area. In any event, I have been attempting to find out any information about this incident for a long time and just recently found some bits and peices on the internet. If Anyone has any recollection of this crime, please feel free to email me at the above address. Thanks

    • Don Cardelli Says:

      I was thirteen when Mary Ann Mitchell was raped and murdered after leaving Kohler’s Kitchen restaurant on Henry Avenue in Roxborough. The crimes (torture) that were committed during the rape (as published by the Inquirer and Bulletin) are unspeakable.

    • jacqueline zacharias Says:

      I don’t have any recollection of the crime but I can tell you this much. he lived at 129 w 6th street Bridgeport pa. the front upstairs bedroom closet is where they found some of her bloody cloths. I never believed in ghosts till I saw his in that house. my ex husbands grandmother lived next door and told me all about it because she lived there when he did this crime.

      • I grew up in this house. From age 8 to 18 my family resided here. I am one of 3 girls and I can tell u 30 years later the house certainly was not haunted by his ghost. I’m not saying it never was because I am sure u did witness something near after the incident. I’m just sure his ghost is no longer haunting.

      • I grew up in this house, lived there from age 8 to 18. I am the oldest of 3 girls. I remember my parents telling me they found out after we moved in that elmo smith lived there, the last man to get the electric chair in Pennsylvania. I never knew the details until I got older n gained interest. I can assure you that after 30+ years he was/is definitely no longer haunting the house. Now knowing more details, it makes my skin crawl to know that some of the most precious years of my life were spent living in a house once occupied by such a horrific being.

  4. I was 8 years old in 1959. My family was in the process of moving to Doylestown from Dublin PA. Elmo Smith came to our door trolling for young girls. He had a rag tied around his license plate. He came to the door, pulled out a roll of dollars and asked my mother if she knew where he could find some girls. He offered to pay her for the info. We had a great dane dog that tried to break through the door and attack him. When my mother shut the door, he walked all around the house perimeter to try and find a way into the house. To this day, I believe our dog saved us from him. I think he was casing the house to come back later at night and picked somewhere else because of the dog. We later identified him as the man at the door via his face being shown on t.v. How’s THAT for a connection?!

    • Karl Sieger Says:

      Wow. That’s a mesmerizing story. What an insane world we live in. I, too, was 8 years old in 1959, and, by coincidence, we had also just moved to Doylestown, but from the Philly suburbs. I learned about the murder from some older kids in the neighborhood. It was the first time I had ever been introduced to the idea of capital punishment. I was also intrigued by the name, Elmo Smith; somehow it fit in a sick way.

      As kids, our Dad occasionally took us to Goldy’s Diner in Dublin, and took the family cars to Bishop’s Service Station–you could choose from 4
      different brands of gasoline there! Do you remember those landmarks?

    • George N Says:

      Kristine, What a close call? Can you contact me via email, geo3417@verizon.net. Thank you.

  5. bob mcnulty Says:

    I was a senior at St Tommy More HS in Phila when this happened. I recall he picked her up after she left the movie house in the 6100-6200 block of Ridge Avenue. I believe it was called the Roxy theatre. Its now a neighborhood Post Office. It was a horrible crime and had the city shaking until he got caught. He was an odd looking duck. He was executed on my 20th birthday…4/02/62. Good Riddance may he burn in hell

  6. I’m trying to find out about the actual investigation.

  7. Philip D. Caponi Says:

    I am a retired 20 year vet of the Pennsylvania State Police. My Father is is a retired 20 year vet of the Philadelphia Police Department. He worked the case and helped fry the b*****d.

    • George N Says:

      Philip, Do you have any additional info about the case against Smith from your father?

  8. Inqy Copy Boy Says:

    Smith was an unconsciencable monster! In addition to raping this girl, he mutilated her before and after he murdered her. I’m not an advocate for the death penalty, but in his case, it should have been performed on a lower than “immediately lethal” voltage. He deserved to suffer far beyond what he put his prey through. There was an Inquirer city reporter, who had autopsy pictures and got off showing them off. He was no better than Smith. Think his name was Harry Karafin. A b*****d! Later got into legal difficulties himself and served time. A year or so later, when I first heard the name. Jack Ruby, I often thought of Karafin. Same kind of pathetic slime . . . and, that’s the best I can say of him.

  9. glenn mcqueen Says:

    my mother and aunt worked at a bakery shop in downingtown, pa. chester co. at the time of the killing of that girl. the night before the killing smith came into where they work, it was raining, he asked my mom and aunt if they needed a ride home.they said no, were they ever lucky cause the next day they heard that man was wanted for murder

  10. I was 11 yrs. old in 1959, living in Northeast Phila. The “Elmo Smith” case was the first case that dealt with ‘rape’, something I knew nothing about, until my mother explained, in a way that an 11 year old could understand, without going into the gorey details. I was a legal asst. for 30 years, and worked for a criminal attorney in Center City, Phila. Now that I’m retired, I love to watch the CSI shows and the real life stories and trials on crimes and the criminals who committed them. I’ve said many times, that I wished that they had criminal justice courses when I was going to school. For some reason I’ve never forgotten the “Elmo Smith” case. I remember the news stories and also the stories others told, some of which were quite grusome. I’ve wondered why, out of all of the stories I’ve seen on TV, they’ve never had anything about the “Elmo Smith” case. I was surprised to see how many other people, most of whom are in my age group, who remembered the case.

  11. I also remember when this happened. In fact, I found this site today (5/15/10) because I wanted to read about the investigation and how he was apprehened. I was in junior high school in New Jersey at the time of this horrific crime and I have never forgotten the animal’s name and that he had also mutilated his young victim, Mary Ann Mitchell. Some things, good and bad, stand out in our memories, and this is one of those horrible things that, no matter how much time passes, is indelibly written in my mind. Whenever I read that some form of punishment for many convicted criminals is “cruel and unusual” I am amazed and dismayed at the literal meaning of those words and wonder what the hell !

    • Vic Says:

      Barbara, I don’t know where you hail from but I had made a comment about this guy about 1 year or so ago. Actually Mary Ann Mitchell was one of my first cousin’s best friends. I was 14 at that time and I remember that Conshohocken was in a state of disbelief. Things back at that time just did not happen! Well you are right about questioning the justice system. Sometimes you really wonder, huh?

      • George N Says:

        Vic, Would it be possible for me to interview you and your cousin?

  12. Vanessa Says:

    I recently made a trip from N.J to Penn. to do some sightseeing and stopped at Eastern State Penitentiary. I was the only one, besides my older brother, who was currently in the death row area of the building, and took a picture down a curving hallway that was restricted to visitors. When I got home, upon uploading the pics to my computer, I found that the picture I got of death row has a rather odd cloud of mist in it, and if you look closely, you can clearly see a face of a man with teeth, lips, eyes and a nose. I’m trying to find out who this person was, so if you have something that could help me figure it out, don’t hesitate to email me. And if anyone wants to take a look at the picture, email me and I’ll send it to you

  13. Susan Schmidt Says:

    He stabbed my cousin 27 times – she lived to identify him – justice was done

  14. Barbara N Says:

    This horrific crime has lived in my memory since it occurred, when I was almost 8 years old. The way he raped, tortured and mutilated Mary Ann Mitchell was beyond comprehension. He then left her body on a golf course on Henry Avenue. Our parents put the fear of God in all of us so as not to talk to strangers or go with anyone who approached us. Vividly I remember how relieved both my Father and Grandfather were when this animal, Elmo Smith, was captured and then executed. The death penalty needs to be ENFORCED in so many pending cases so that families can find peace for their departed loved ones. To the best of my knowledge Mary Ann Mitchell was an only child – the agony her parents faced is unfathomable to me.

  15. Margaret Walsh Says:

    I too remember this terrible crime. Mary Ann
    was a Manayunk girl, was picked up after 2 other friends caught their bus home. She was waiting for a bus too. They had just had sandwiches at Chubby’s on Henry Ave. She was a nice girl, only child and EVERY family in
    the area cried when this happened. To set a timeframe: we were innocents, before Vietnam cam into our livingrooms before 24hr news, when neighborhoods KNEW & cared for their kids 2-3 blocks from your homes, it hit us all! Young girls could not go out unless in 2’s or more to a group until he was caught.
    The night he was executed the churchs bells rang just errie to remember. Many dads asked
    Police Superintendant (?) Ferguson for just 1 minute with this murderer of course he couldn’t comply. I was in 13, in 8th grade MaryAnn was 16 or 17 and I remember her from the Sturday night Church dances and the neighborhood, rest in peace knowing we still care.

  16. G.D.SCHAFFER Says:

    In 1984.I worked as an adult probation/ parole officer in Montgomery County and I heard about this crime from some peiple I worked with. I tried to get a trial transcript and/or the Grand Jury transcript but when I requested this information from the Montgomery County authorities I was asked a dozen questions like” Why do you want this ?” and “What do you intend to do with it if you get to see our file”.

    I was told that all court files-materials were under seal mainly because the murder photos were so gory that they feard the victim’s family would somehow see them in some schlock crime magazine.

    Since the trial procecutor Vincent Cirillo- was then a judge in Montgomery County, I always believed that that had something to do with the secrecy. I was also told that a villanova Law School professor wanted the court file ( not the criminal file per se) and he was denied also.

    Finally, I learned from the people I worked with that Smith had
    killed a young girl in 1956 and stuffed the body in a well outside of Norristown , a crime to which he implicitedly admitted just before his death.

  17. I have spent a considerable amount of time gathering information on our hometown girl Maryann Mitchell. We have never forgotten her. My tribute can be found at http://www.maryannmitchell.blogspot.com.

  18. joni cessna Says:

    i remember that horrific crime as though it was yesterday. Crimes of that nature were not common place in the area of philadelphia where i lived for 18 ys. and are not easily forgotten.

    i was 7 or 8 at that time, old enough to read the newspapers however all of a sudden my mother began throwing the papers in the trash before i had a chance to read them or read about this monster…elmo smith. it was huge news and i somehow found out about it . i could not imagine anything so brutal as that in my 7yr old brain. my brain just did not compute it. it could not process that kind of information.

    my mother put the fear of God in me warning me about strangers bearing gifts. how never get close enough to a car where someone could grab you. and these men do not have gifts for you nor do they have candy for you in a box. what is in the box are snakes..lots of them. poisonious and you would be dead before you knew it.

    whatever she said worked…as i was a friendly sort of little girl but i never talked to strangers or got close enough to anyone i did not know for fear of those snakes.

    and to this day i stiil have nightmares about snakes. not alot but once in a while. i can not even touch the page of national geographics if their is a snake on that page. i am sure i am not alone.

    it was a sad time in philadelphia…a part of our innocence died that day when Mayann Mitchell was so brutaly murdered. i think of that case and of Maryann Mitchell quite often. over 50ys have passed and as i said i remember it as though it happened yesterday.

    thank you for having this page available. Maryann Mitchell will never be forgotten.

  19. Sandy Fitzpatrick - Doylestown Says:

    This same animal (ELMO SMITH) murdered my five year old sister on Mother’s Day in 1947 in Upper Gwynedd. My mom always said, if he had been executed after my sister’s death, MaryAnn Mitchell would still be alive.

  20. Laurel Wright Says:

    Like Rhonda Conicelli, I too was 11 when the crime was commited and i remember well the time of the execution I was 14 and believe it or not it brought on my very first mentrual period. I talked about it so much to my classmates that one guy said, geez you must be in love with the guy. Oh perish the thought . Anyway I had my first introduction to what evil one human being (if you can call Elmo Smith human ) can perpetrate on another. It was so much in the news and we didn’t even have the cable channels but I knew all about it. I remembered how someone told me coka cola bottles were found inside her. I was born it Norristown (Sacred Heart Hospital) but raised in Collegeville. So I guess most from this and surrounding areas would remember. This horror stuck with me and I even moved to So Florida in 1968, but this still runs through my mind and how I was so intensely affected by it. It just didn’t make sence then and it still doesn’t. Yet now it happens more than we want to think about.

  21. I was 12 when poor Mary Ann was murdered and was in grade school at Melrose Academy. I remember how upset the Sister was who was teaching us. She really did not know how to discuss this with us without shocking us further. We were so naive and really could not understand all that he did to her. My ex husband , who was raised in the Shawmont section of Roxborough, told me that his father was part of a vigilante posse who was going to pull him out of jail and string him up. No matter what punishment he got, it was too good for him, for what he did to her.

  22. David M Says:

    To Barbara N.
    Correction: Mary Ann’s body was found in a gully at the corner of Harts Lane and Barren Hill Road in Lafayette Hill, not Henry Ave which is inside Philly city limits. Lafayette Hill is in Whitemarsh Twp, Montgomery County. There is a golf course in that area. I was a senior in Springfield Twp HS (Montco) when the papers recorded her body found on Dec 30, 1959. Some high school friends and I visited that area. Such a crime was devastating to folks who lived in those quiet, relatively crime-free suburban communities back in those days. It had the same unbelievable, shocking effect as 9/11 did even though not remotely of same magnitude. Times have changed so drastically in this country in a mere 50yrs. All manner of violence against humanity is so common nowadays. Jesus come quickly.

  23. Jack Rabbit Says:

    Judge Vincent A Cirillo Was a Great Law and Order Judge He wanted me to be The New Executioner He later went on to Be President Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania I attended Judge Cirillo’s funeral R.I.P. Judge Cirillo

  24. Donna OD Says:

    I was in 7th grade in the same school Cecilian Academy where Mary Ann went. She was in high school. I remember getting the paper that morning and seeing her in the same uniform that I wore every day. I ran and woke my parents up to show them the paper. Her parents later gave the school a gold chalise that was used every time we had mass at school. I remember how quiet and sad it was for along time

  25. Elmo Smith DID NOT murder Maryann Mitchell. And what you post here as facts are a disgrace. Read the book Murdered Innocence: The Maryann Mitchell Murder Revisited.

  26. Lillian Fitz-Gerald Says:

    When I was twelve, in the summer of 1959 I was on my way to the cobbler’s store when a green station wagon pulled up to the crosswalk and a man asked me where Hazzard Street was. I pointed several blocks north, but he insisted that he got lost easily and wanted me to get into the car to show him. He said he’d bring me right back. I refused and ran. Months later we saw his picture in the newspaper. It had been Elmo Smith. I’ve thanked God ever since that my parents were so adamant about not talking to strangers. I could have easily been a statistic.

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