Archive for Gas chamber

23 January 1963 – James Abner Bentley

Posted in Gas chamber with tags , , , on January 23 by Old Sparky

The execution of James Abner Bentley kicked off an unofficial backlash against the death penalty in California.

Bentley was sent to the gas chamber on this day in 1963. But this was at a time when more liberal law makers, such as Governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown, were emerging, who were wholly against death as a sentence.

Right to life?

This life for a life sat uncomfortably amid this more humane climate and it sparked a spate of stays of execution. Death row inmates were effectively staving off their final days indeterminately, over a period that lasted four years.

Bentley’s case in itself was unremarkable. He was found guilty of killing an off licence owner in Fresno and, as the state dictated, that meant death. His execution led to an unofficial investigation in to the gas chamber as a means of penalty and paved the way for the real investigation at the end of the ’60s.

Also on this day

23 January 1822 – Henry Thompson and Richard Jago

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11 January 1957 – Jack Gilbert Graham

Posted in Gas chamber with tags , , , , on January 11 by Last Writes

Jack Gilbert Graham John ‘Jack’ Gilbert Graham was prepared to sacrifice 43 others when he murdered his mum in a plane explosion over Colorado.

A total of 44 people including his mum Daisie King and a little baby were killed when the mass-murderer bombed a plane as it took off from Denver on 1 November 1955.

He had loaded his mum’s suitcase full of dynamite and 11 minutes after the plane took off the explosive luggage blew up in mid-air.


Why did he do it? There are reports that it was revenge for the way his mother treated him as a child. But greed played a huge part – he wanted to get his hands on his mum’s money. Not only would he get his inheritance, Graham also hoped to pocket King’s travel insurance payout too.

But the FBI was on to him and they hauled him in after all trails of incriminating evidence led to greedy Graham. While awaiting his trial, Graham tried to garotte himself . And in the face of his overwhelming guilt, the jury took just 69 minutes to sentence him to death.

Graham was sent to the gas chamber on 11 January 1957, and pronounced dead at 8:08pm in Colorado State Penitentiary.

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3 December 2001 – Lois Nadean Smith

Posted in Death penalty, Gas chamber with tags , , , on December 3 by Old Sparky

Lois Nadean Smith

Lois Nadean Smith

Lois Nadean Smith was put to death by lethal injection, aged 61 for the murder of her son’s ex-girlfriend Cindy Baillee.

Smith was incensed that Baillee had tried to get her son Greg Smith killed and so confronted her in the car on the way to her ex-husband’s house. On the way she is said to have strangled her and stabbed her in the throat.

However, the ordeal didn’t end there. Once they got to the house, Smith tormented her with a gun, shooting several times. As Baillee fell to the ground, Smith is said to have stamped on her neck before shooting her in the chest and back of the head. Autopsy results found nine bullets in total.

Needless to say Smith was found guilty and put to death in Oklahoma for her crimes.

Also on this day

3 December 1901 – Patrick McKenna

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2 December 1948 – Sam Shockley

Posted in Death penalty, Gas chamber with tags , , , on December 2 by Old Sparky

Sam Shockley

Sam Shockley

Sam Shockley was gassed at the infamous San Quentin for murder and for aiding and abetting a prison break.

He was originally jailed for life as a result of robbery and kidnap. However he was classed as unstable and transferred from Leavenworth to Alcatraz where he tried to escape twice.

Shockley played a key part in the Battle of Alcatraz, which failed descending into a bloody shoot-out, which lasted two days and killed five men. He pleaded insanity to no avail and was ultimately sent to the gas chamber aged 38.

Also on this day

2 December 2005 – Shawn Paul Humphries
2 December 2005 – Kenneth Boyd
2 December 1859 – John Brown

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18 September 1959 – Harvey Murray Glatman

Posted in Death penalty, Gas chamber with tags , , , , on September 18 by Old Sparky

Harvey Murray Glatman

Harvey Murray Glatman

Death by cyanide poisoning was the way US serial killer Harvey Murray Glatman went for a litany of crimes against females.

AKA, the ‘Lonely Hearts Killer, Glatman went on a frenzied rampage raping and killing women in LA, tying them up so they couldn’t resist then taking photos so he could capture the moments.

Indeed he would lure his victims by trawling model agencies and blagging he worked for low-end magazines. Suckered, the girls would come willingly to his flat where the horrors unfolded.

His first victim was Judith Ann Dull, a 19-year-old divorcee. He repeated raped her then drove her out to a remote spot, where he trussed her – tying one end of the rope round her neck and the other round her ankles. He then callously yanked the rope up so it literally snapped her back in half.

Revealing photos

He then proceeded to take photos and, according to reporter, Joseph Geringer, one serial killer psychologist Dr Keppel felt it was these photos that revealed his true inner being. ‘That a human being could so reveal the depths of his own weakness and feelings of insignificance through photographs was something investigators had not seen before.’

But his serial killing days were finally cut short thanks to his fourth would-be victim who’s spunky retaliation finally nailed him, all because she fought back, unlike the others.

After a struggle, she managed to grapple her way out of the car, and it was while Glatman was trying to drag her back into his car that a police car swung by. That was the beginning of the end and he was finally caught and his crimes surfaced.

Having been found guilty, he was gassed with cyanide and it took him 12 agonising minutes to die at San Quentin Prison, aged 31.

Also on this day

18 September 1953 – Louisa Merrifield

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8 August 1962 – Elizabeth Duncan

Posted in Death penalty, Gas chamber with tags , , , on August 8 by Old Sparky

Elizabeth Duncan

Elizabeth Duncan

A would-be incestuous fantasy fuelled today’s fiendish felon. Of course, she may come across like a cuddly mum, but don’t be deceived – it was decidedly deadly to dice with Elizabeth Ann Duncan as her daughter-in-law found out.

No stranger to ‘Californication’, Duncan experienced love in a variety of guises. During her life, she apparently ran a ‘massage parlour’ for a while, sniffed ‘Time’ magazine, as well as chalking up 11 marriages. However, it was one marriage in particular that was to yield the object of her deep-rooted affections – her son Frank.

Ties that bind

Known affectionately as ‘Ma’, Duncan was driven. Single-mindedly, she had made many sacrifices to ensure her son got the very best of everything. Frank stepped up to the mark and went on to be a successful lawyer and his skills were to come in useful all too soon.

Things took a sinister turn when the boy then tried to cut the apron strings. We say ‘boy’, but actually Frank was 29 when he tried to move out of the family home. To stop him in his tracks, Duncan dosed herself up with drugs in a pseudo-suicide attempt.

Of course her ploy worked at first, but it backfired in a way Duncan could never have imagined.

She was nursed back to health by a nurse called Olga Kupczyk, who was to catch Frank’s roving eye. Indeed according to ‘they got married although Frank continued to return to his mother’s appartment [sic] every night!

Frank exchange

However, Jim Barrett in his book ‘Ma Duncan’ casts doubt on the illicit nature of the couple’s relationship. Instead he asserts that Duncan shamelessly tried to seduce her son in a last-ditch attempt to sabotage her son’s marriage on the very night they got hitched.

Whichever the story, the beginning of the end came when the newlyweds found out they were having a baby. Duncan was devastated and immersed herself in trying to find ways to get shot of her most hated daughter-n-law.

Hired guns

She hired two inept henchmen by the names of Moya and Baldonado to do the dirty work and boy was it dirty. They pistol-whipped the heavily pregnant Olga then thinking she was dead, buried her alive. Her baby would have been due just one month later.

According to the ‘Ventura Country Star’, ‘dirt would be found in her lungs indicating Olga had suffocated after being buried alive’.

Instead of the $6,000, Duncan had promised they got a paltry $137 a piece, so it’s not surprising that the two blokes thought nothing of shopping themselves and their employer.

Mummy’s boy

During her trial and despite losing his wife and unborn child, mummy’s boy Frank admitted ‘If I had a choice for a mother, much as I have been humiliated and hurt, I would still choose the same mother’.
Duncan and her two sidekicks were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by the jury, but it was a close-run thing between the chamber and an asylum.

But the chamber won and she became the last women to be gassed in California, Duncan protested her innocence even as she was strapped into the chair and her last words were unsurprisingly, ‘I’m innocent, where’s Frank’ and her beloved son wasn’t even there – he was at the law court trying desperately to gain a stay of execution even as the noxious fumes enveloped her.

If you were wondering what happened to the other two, well, both Moya and Baldonado followed that afternoon in a double execution.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Parallels can be drawn between Duncan and yesterday’s anti-heroine Anna Månsdotter who was motivated by the same incestuous feelings.

Also on this day

8 August 1942 – Herbert Hans Haupt
8 August 2006 – Darrell Ferguson

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3 June 1955 – Barbara Graham

Posted in Death penalty, Gas chamber with tags , , , on June 3 by Old Sparky

Barbara Graham‘Why waste good food on me? Give it to someone who can enjoy it,’ snarled Bloody Babs as she prepared to come face to face with her maker.

Drug-addicted prostitute Barbara Graham, born Barbara Elaine Wood had been convicted of murder in America. She got the gas chamber along with her two accomplices after they botched a robbery in an attempt to do a wealthy, elderly widow over. Graham and her two criminal partners, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins had ended up killing Mabel Monahan in Burbank, California.

The trio were found guilty and during her two years on death row Babs suddenly found God.

Throughout her last night she apparently prayed and her piety looked as if it had paid off a couple of times. She’d been scheduled to die at 10am and came close to execution twice, but was granted slight stays of execution as there was a glimmer of hope that she’d be reprieved. But that in itself was excruciating for Babs who’d steeled herself for execution at 10am. So when the glimmer came to nothing, she sobbed ‘why do they torture me so?’

Clinging to life

She was strapped to a chair in the gas chamber just after 11:30am and hooked up to a stethescope. The doors closed in on her and the cyanide was released. Her head bowed in what appeared to be a quick and painless death. But it transpired that she was actually holding her breath in a desperate bid to clutch on to life. Of course, she couldn’t hold her breath for ever and her lungs eventually filled with the tearingly noxious fumes and she was declared dead at 11:42am just a few weeks short of her 32nd birthday. Her two partners followed roughly three hours later. And the deaths didn’t stop there.

Babs’ lives on

Before her death she cursed those who’d been instrumental in sending her down. Roughly a year after Bloody Babs expired that marked the onset of a spate of unexpected deaths. Her defence lawyer, who’d quit after her lies were exposed, had a heart attack just a year later. The following year, a trio of men were struck down comprising the prosecutor who got cancer, Monahan’s former son-in-law who suffered an attack of apoplexy and the chief warden whose heart gave out.

Bloody Babs, on the other hand, well, her story took off – she was posthumously immortalised in a couple of films. The first starred Susan Hayward, who won an Oscar for playing Graham in the 1958 film I Want To Live. The movie played on the theory that she was innocent. But, it was largely acknowledged to be a work of fiction. Bionic woman Lindsay Wagner went on to star in the 1983 remake.

Also on this day

3 June 2004 – Nam Cam

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