[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, ORE., FLA., S. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Aug 28 21:37:15 UTC 2006
Baytown mom won't be tried again for infant's death
Prosecutors have decided to drop the case against Brandy Briggs, who was
sent to prison for the death of her infant son and later released after an
appeals court overturned the conviction.
Briggs' mother, Shelbia Goss, said today they were happy but taken by
surprise by the news that the District Attorney's office won't re-try the
case. "We're just excited," she said as she and Briggs headed downtown for
the announcement from their home in Baytown.
Irma Arenivar, legal assistant to Charles Portz, Briggs' defense attorney,
confirmed their office was notified by Harris County prosecutor Bill Moore
earlier today that the case against Briggs will be dropped and no further
charges will be pursued.
Briggs pleaded guilty to a 2nd-degree felony charge of injury to a child
in October 2000, more than a year after the death of her 2-month-old son,
Daniel Lemons. She was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, saying Briggs had ineffective legal
counsel, threw out her conviction in December after she had served 5
Prosecutors had been weighing whether to re-try Briggs.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Jury selection for murder trial set for today
Jury selection will begin today in the capital murder trial of a
21-year-old Killeen man accused of killing two women almost 3 years ago.
Koran Joseph Small will stand trial in Judge Joe Carroll's 27th District
Court on 2 counts of capital murder in the Oct. 30, 2003, deaths of
Natasha Deeds, 20, and Tanya Barnes, 19.
The defendant also is charged in the April 24, 2004, shooting death of
Gary Ridley, 35, and Sheria Lunde, 33, both of Belton.
Small's alleged co-conspirator in the case, Kyle Wade Green, 19, was
convicted and given an automatic life sentence last October in the deaths
of Ridley and Lunde. He must serve a minimum of 60 years before he is
eligible for parole.
Green was 17 years old at the time of the killings and was not eligible
for the death penalty.
The district attorney's office has not decided whether to seek the death
penalty for Small.
All four bodies were discovered in a remote field west of the old Killeen
On May 19, the skeletal remains of Deeds and Barnes were discovered in
separate graves, about one-quarter of a mile north of where the bodies of
the Belton couple were found.
The bodies of Ridley and Lunde were discovered 6 days earlier. The couple
was reported missing April 29, 2004.
Barnes was last seen Oct. 28, 2003, at Sam's Dollhouse on Elms Road, where
she worked. She and Deeds, her co-worker, were reported missing in
February 2004 by Killeen police.
The 2 women were last seen in a car that was reported stolen, but the
vehicle was found abandoned on Jan. 30.
Small is charged in separate indictments with robbing and murdering the
Belton couple and with kidnapping, robbing and murdering the 2 younger
(source: Killeen Daily Herald)
Remembering Susi: A decade later, sweet memories held hostage by the
horror of murder
3 packs of Breathmints - 1 peppermint, 1 spearmint, 1 wintergreen.
A miniature pair of "Hollyweird" glasses. A miniature basketball the size
of a golf ball. Some chocolate candies the size of half dollars, wrapped
in gold foil. Some Hershey's chocolate kisses. Some cough drops; a small,
plastic racing car that says "Beamer" on the top; some toothpicks
carefully bundled together with purple yarn; some tiny plastic barbells; a
tiny Mickey Mouse hat that could actually fit on a mouse; and a bottle of
juice. Orange juice. Small enough to slide into your eardrum.
All of it stuffed into a plastic tube - the size of a paper-towel roll -
with a red cap on it.
This is what you sent me a dozen years ago for my 32nd birthday, Susi,
just a couple of weeks after I had packed up everything and moved back to
Eugene, leaving you on the south beaches of Los Angeles.
I still have the tube. And it's still crammed with all those things that
remind you of me.
It sits in a tattered U-Haul moving box, along with everything else I
still have that reminds me of you - pack after pack of photographs, the
letters addressed to "Markus!" and sealed with lipstick smudges, the
plastic Donald Duck doll holding a "Gang Green" football from Oregon's
Rose Bowl season, the big stuffed moose with the forest-green holiday
scarf from the Manhattan Beach Nordstrom, the microcassette from my
answering machine with your voice on it and the tiny, shiny metallic
hearts sprinkled everywhere, all over everything, because that's just the
way you were.
Full of heart.
And everything in that box still smells like you, Susi, a sweet tangy
smell. It's the most uncanny thing. How can that be, more than a decade
Buried on her wedding day
The telephone rings at 1 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It's Aug. 27, 1996,
in New York City. It's still Aug. 26 in Oregon.
It's you on the other end of the line. We haven't spoken in months.
You're calling from your apartment in Tualatin, just south of Portland,
and you want to know if I'll be coming to your wedding in 19 days. Mostly,
though, you just want to talk. To reminisce.
After all, I'm your most recent boyfriend since you met your fiance, Keith
Hippely, and you and I had talked about getting married ourselves. "I
always thought you'd make a good dad," you say to me that night.
It's a sentimental conversation, a healing conversation. And even though I
tell you I'm not planning to be there that day, at your father and
stepmother's place on the McKenzie River, I have no idea that I'll never
speak with you again.
Within 24 hours of that phone call exactly a decade ago, you are dead at
34. And Keith and I and every guy you ever dated will soon be murder
Instead of your wedding on Sept. 14, 1996, everyone comes for your
funeral, including me.
You were born on Dec. 28, 1961, in Mountain View, Calif., just south of
San Francisco. You died on Aug. 27, 1996, in a Tigard apartment at the
hands of 2 cold-blooded killers. 2 guys with names right out of a John
Grisham novel: Billy Lee Oatney Jr. and Willford Johnston III. 2 guys who
were cell mates in federal prison. Oatney, who had not been out of prison
long after serving 12 years for attempted murder, was making earrings for
your wedding. But you didn't like them, chose not to buy them for $200.
Murder takes more than a life. It takes, in the case of you, Susi,
countless lives. Takes them and turns them upside down, creating an
exponential sea of sadness and anger that will never entirely subside.
Not for me. Not for Keith. Not for your family. Not for anyone who ever
knew you and was touched by your sweet face and childlike grin, your
exuberance for life, your giddy laugh that sometimes ended with a cute,
little snort and your ridiculous talent for drawing and painting and
But we can still remember you. Your killers could not take away the
memories, warm ones that no one will ever have for them.
A hollow heart
Now 44, the same age as you would be, Billy Lee Oatney Jr. resides today
where he was put 8 years and 4 months ago - on death row at the Oregon
State Penitentiary in Salem.
He insists he had nothing to do with killing you, even though he had no
one to corroborate his alibi. He left Johnston alone in his apartment, he
said during his trial, and went to shoot pool and drink beer that Tuesday
at a bar until 1 a.m.
But when Washington County District Attorney Scott Upham found the
employee who closed the bar at 10 p.m. and put her on the stand, Oatney
had no comeback. The jury unanimously found him guilty and sentenced him
Johnston had turned state's evidence and told the whole story in court -
how they raped and tortured you in a drunken haze before strangling you
with a plastic garbage bag. In exchange for this confession, Johnston got
a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
I testified at Oatney's trial, Susi. I was the only one who could find a
photograph of you wearing the tiny hollow gold heart your sister Mindy
gave you in 1979, when you were the maid of honor at her first wedding.
The police found that heart among other possessions of yours in a storage
facility at Oatney's apartment.
You had put the heart on the gold chain I gave you for your 32nd birthday.
I found a picture of you wearing it while I was still in New York,
enlarged it and sent it to a detective with the Oregon State Police.
2 years later, that same detective found me in Molalla, 40 miles southeast
of Portland, where I worked briefly as sports editor of the weekly
newspaper there. He came to the office, pulled the heart out and placed it
in my hand and asked me if it was the one you wore. I said it was. He
handed me a subpoena.
I waited until he was gone before I cried.
I still feel guilty sometimes about what happened to you. I know that
giving up the well-paying job you'd had for years at Mattel, where you
were a graphic designer, where you made clothes and accessories for
Barbie, and your moving back to Oregon in the spring of 1995 had something
to do with me. You said so yourself.
And I know that if I had given you what you wanted, had asked you to marry
me, instead of breaking up with you, then you never would have moved to
Portland, never would have had the temporary roommate who introduced you
to Oatney, that you would most likely still be here today.
But then you never would have been set to marry Keith, who you met while
still working at Mattel and continued seeing after you moved to Portland.
And I know you loved him, too.
Keith and I became friends during the trial, you know. I stayed at his
house in Manhattan Beach eight years ago this month during my move to
Alabama, to take a newspaper job. There were pictures of you everywhere,
still, 2 years after your death. Keith, like me, is still single. He works
at Mattel again after freelancing for a while. He's still a toy designer,
back in the Hot Wheels division, still lives in the same Manhattan Beach
He turns 50 next year. Your family suspects he'll never marry, not now.
"I'm not sure if I really understand how it's affected me," Hippely, who
lost his father to leukemia two years ago, says by phone last week. "The
slightest little thing can bring it all back, as if it were yesterday. A
smell, a look. Every time I see a butterfly."
You had a butterfly tattoo on your ankle, Susi. It helped the police
identify you after they found your badly decomposed body in Champoeg State
Park, about 25 miles south of Portland off Interstate 5, 2 weeks after you
"I'm still very bitter"
As you can imagine, your father, Ted Larsen of Eugene, who used to own and
operate Eugene's Poole-Larsen Funeral Home, was outraged and overcome with
grief at your fate. The judge almost called a mistrial because he kept
threatening to jump over the courtroom banister and strangle Oatney. I
think he would have done it, too, if he hadn't been restrained. I don't
fault him. I felt the same way.
Your father plans to visit your grave today at Rest-Haven Memorial Park in
Eugene, where you were buried next to Jeffrey, the brother you never knew
who died at 6 months in 1958. And he is still filled with that same rage
today. I know, he told me so just a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm still very bitter," says Ted, who turns 71 on Tuesday, as his eyes
begin to well with tears. "I fantasize about being able to get ahold of
that son of a bitch and kill him. I think about it all the time. I'm so
angry, and I don't suspect I'll ever change."
Your father is not the only one who has a difficult time talking about
what happened to you, even 10 years later. Your oldest sibling, Ted Jr. of
Salem: "He won't talk at all about it," your father says.
Your sudden and shocking death was, of course, hard on your stepmother,
Val. She was dealt another blow 11 months after you were killed when her
son, your stepbrother Cameron Serbu, committed suicide in Portland's
Washington Park when he was just 35. He was the same age as you, remember?
A promising neurosurgeon like his father, the late John Serbu of Eugene,
he graduated from Marist High School the same year, 1980, that you and I
graduated from South Eugene High.
Your family has known so much death, so much tragedy, in such a short
time, Susi. Your sister Mindy's 1st husband, Mike Traudt, the father of
the 3 nephews - Tyler, Tim and Thomas - who adored you, died 16 months
after you at 41. He never came out of a coma after being struck by a
subway train in New York City in 1995.
I've always wondered how your family battles on. They seem to have your
spunk, your spirit.
"You just have to remember to put one foot in front of the other, to eat,
to sleep and that's all you can do for a while," Val Larsen says, sitting
in the home she shares today with your father on Eugene's Lariat Drive,
not far from the Wesley United Methodist Church where your funeral was
held 5 days after they found you.
"Your mind is taken up with thoughts of that child. And you can't
concentrate on anything else. It affects your memory and your
In the beginning, when a child is lost tragically, you think about it
every 30 seconds, Val says. After some time passes, maybe you think about
them every two minutes. Then every five minutes. And then, Ted Larsen
says, maybe, if you're lucky, you get to a place 10 years later where you
only think of them 7 or 8 times a day.
"It's hard to heal completely," Val says. "You don't. You just cope; you
Sudden death is difficult for most of us to grasp under any circumstances,
says Jane Vogel, a Eugene psychologist who specializes in trauma.
"But with murder, there's a sense of senselessness about it that makes it
harder to understand," she says. "Our mind tends to perseverate, to get
stuck on that which we don't understand, making it more difficult to focus
on a celebration of a person's life. Even 10 years later."
Your mother, Shannon Inch of Eugene, has come a long way, Susi, since that
awful time a decade ago, since she appeared on the March 13, 1998, front
page of The Oregonian newspaper with Val and your only sister, Mindy Bush
of Portland, all three sobbing in Hillsboro's Washington County Courthouse
after Oatney was found guilty. Her Christian faith has gotten her through,
"As more time goes on, I think about the good things and not the bad
things," your mother says. She remembers when you were 6 or 7 and the
family cat, Daisy, was pregnant and her bed was in your room so you could
be right there the minute the kittens were born. When the moment finally
came, this is what you mother says you did: "She grabs the whole litter in
her hands, comes running up to our bed and said, 'Look Mom and Dad! Look
at the kitties!'
Your mother also remembers the pizzas and hot fudge sundaes you made as a
little girl, how you always wanted to wait on everyone. "She was a very
happy child," your mother says. "She was just herself."
That's how your brother Scott Larsen, who was two years behind us at South
Eugene, remembers you, as just yourself. "I'm constantly reminded of her
and thinking of Susi," says Scott, now superintendent of the Emerald
Valley Golf Club in Creswell. "And it always makes me happy inside. I
always think about her spunky and wild personality. She was as creative
and artistic as anybody I ever met."
Spirited, whirling, twirling - a 5-foot-1 tornado of energy. "The only
time she was really still was when she was drawing," your mother says.
You were not perfect, Susi. You could be exasperating. You suffered from
bouts of anxiety and depression and insomnia, just like me, just like a
lot of us. You could be obsessive and ornery and sometimes just a pill.
As Mindy says: "There was no one I could get more (ticked) off at." Not
that she, too, didn't love you more than life itself.
"She got robbed of her life, and I got robbed of my sister," Bush says. "I
don't have my sister anymore."
She still has her sense of humor though, Susi. Same as you did. In fact,
she and her husband, Craig, named their golden retriever puppy after you 7
years ago. Yep. The dog's name is Susi.
"Some people think it's morbid," Bush says. But she knows you would laugh,
that you are laughing, somewhere.
"I just wonder where she is," she says. "I just kind of wonder what her
space is now."
(source: The Register-Guard)
GOVERNOR'S RACE----Davis discusses 'bad vote' with black voters
Jim Davis, Democratic primary candidate for governor, reached out to black
voters on the campaign trail in Miami.
In a spirited speech to black activists in Liberty City, Jim Davis came
close to expressing regret Sunday for his vote against compensating 2
black men sentenced to death for murders they didn't commit.
Davis' rival in the Democratic primary, state Sen. Rod Smith, assailed
Davis' 1990 vote in the Florida Legislature during a recent televised
debate. Even Davis supporters acknowledged that the vote was "bad.''
Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee had been pardoned 15 years earlier and
another man had confessed to the crime. They spent 12 years in prison -- 9
of them on death row. The case is now the subject of attack mailers sent
by Smith supporters.
Davis said he didn't hear ''evidence'' that restitution was warranted.
''I am not perfect,'' added Davis, now a member of Congress. `"I am a
leader who will listen and learn. I'm not someone who has avoided making
Anything short of an outright apology isn't enough for Pitts and Lee, who
each told The Miami Herald on Sunday that Davis needs to ''come clean,''
by admiting he was wrong and explaining why he voted that way.
The issue could hurt Davis' standing in the black community, a key voting
bloc in Democratic primaries. But Smith, who campaigned at black churches
in Palm Beach County on Sunday, also has to answer for a vote of concern
to black constituents.
Last year, Smith sponsored an NRA-backed ''stand-your-ground'' law that
community activists fear is worsening the street violence plaguing
Miami-Dade. Families of children slain by stray bullets have launched a
petition to repeal the law, which more loosely permits deadly force
against attackers in public places.
Smith has argued that people have a right to defend themselves. Davis said
lawmakers should have sought more input from law enforcement, but he did
not completely reject the legislation.
''We need to look real careful at how this law is being used,'' Davis
"When I'm governor, we're not going to make deals in the backroom with
some interest group. That's my concern about how this law was passed.''
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings jumped in, saying Davis was being too nice and
should condemn Smith for his ''A'' rating from the NRA.
Hastings, one of the first blacks elected to Congress from Florida since
Reconstruction, also defended Davis' vote against restitution for Pitts
''Jim took a bad vote, but that doesn't mean he's a bad person,'' Hastings
said, pointing to Davis' high score from the NAACP. "You can't make
someone out to be a racist on one vote.''
Hastings said that when Pitts and Lee were in prison, he and 2 other
lawyers went to death row to try to save them. ''You ask them who saved
them from being executed,'' he said. "You're looking at one of them.''
Pitts, now a retiree living in Miami, couldn't place him.
''Here's how much work he did: I don't remember him,'' Pitts said. "I've
never thought much of Alcee Hastings as a person.''
Pitts said he couldn't remember Hastings helping, but he might have
pitched in years ago when Gov. Claude Kirk threatened that their appeals
had been exhausted.
ACLU lawyer Maurice Rosen then helped fight their case in the courts, and
Hastings did ''a little bit'' of work with Rosen then, said Lee. Lee said
he appreciated Hastings' help.
But he said the fact that Hastings was ''running interference'' for Davis
bothered him. Lee asked: "Why is he even on stage with Al? When it came
time to do the right thing, Al did. When it came time to do the right
thing, that man -- what's his name, Davis? -- he voted to renege on
justice. He did the wrong thing. He's a cold-hearted man.''
A hard-hitting mailing about the vote points to 'Jim Davis' record of
shame.'' But the flier, bankrolled by sugar growers, could backfire
against Smith by reinforcing his close ties to an industry blamed for
Davis' event Sunday sought to highlight those ties and allay any concerns
about his commitment to civil rights. Several black voters at the event
said they didn't hold the Pitts and Lee vote against him.
''Everyone is entitled to a misjudgment,'' said the Rev. Richard Dunn of
Liberty City. "I support him because I believe in him and believe he will
be fair to all Floridians. If he had consistently voted against African
Americans, I wouldn't be here today.''
(source: Miami Herald)
SOUTH DAKOTA----impending execution
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA PRESS RELEASE
Amnesty International USA Makes Last-Minute Clemency Appeal for Executon
Group Cites Rampant Arbitrariness of Death Penalty System; Co-Defendant
Charged with Identical Crime Received Life Imprisonment, Not Death Penalty
Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today urged clemency for Elijah Page, a
24-year-old man who is scheduled to be executed in South Dakota tomorrow
night. Putting teeth into the call, Amnesty International, the world's
largest grassroots human rights organization, has issued a worldwide call
to action, mobilizing the public to send appeals to South Dakota Governor
Mike Rounds on Page's behalf. AIUSA Executive Director Larry Cox has
written to Governor Rounds, urging the commutation of Page's sentence.
Page was sentenced to death by a judge after pleading guilty and waiving
his right to trial and sentencing by jury. Page's co-defendant Darrell
Hoadley pleaded not guilty and was tried by a jury that found him guilty
of exactly the same crime as Page, with the same aggravating factors.
Hoadley was sentenced to life in prison with out the possibility of
"Elijah Page's case clearly demonstrates that our capital punishment
system is a lottery of death," Cox said. "Page was sentenced to death, and
Hoadley was sentenced to life -- for the same crime. Page's execution must
be halted at once."
In January 2006, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld Page's sentence. 2
of the 5 justices dissented, stating that both Page and Hoadley "should
receive life in prison without the possibility of parole for their
substantially identical acts of murder."
Page has given up his appeals even though, given the rate of reversible
error found in capital cases, he stands a significant chance of having his
sentence overturned or, at the very least, having his execution delayed.
Of the people executed since 1977, about one in 10 has been a so-called
"volunteer." Any number of factors may lead a prisoner not to pursue
appeals against his or her death sentence, including mental disorder,
physical illness, remorse, bravado, religious belief, the severity of
conditions of confinement (including prolonged isolation and lack of
physical contact visits), the bleak alternative of life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole, pessimism about appeal prospects, a
quest for notoriety, or simply a desire to gain a semblance of control
over a situation in which the prisoner is otherwise powerless.
"Elijah Page has dropped his appeals, in effect asking South Dakota to
kill him," said Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, AIUSA's Director of the Program to
Abolish the Death Penalty. "A decision taken by someone under the threat
of death by others can never be truly 'consensual.' Moreover, it cannot
conceal the fact that the state is engaged in pre-meditated killing.
'Volunteers' like Page reveal the capital punishment system for what it
really is -- a system that perpetuates a culture of violence, not a
solution to it."
Page suffered a childhood of unimaginable abuse and deprivation. From the
time he was 2 years old, living with his siblings and his
drug-addictedmother in Kansas City, Missouri, his mother would allow
dealers to sexually molest him in exchange for drugs. When Page was seven,
his mother lost custody of him and his siblings due to negligence. The
judge who sentenced Page to death said to him, "Your early years must have
been a living hell. Most people treat their pets better than your parents
treated their kids."
Page was put in state care at 13, living in more than a dozen foster homes
and drifting in and out of juvenile detention centers for a series of
petty offenses. At the time of the crime for which he was sentenced to
death, he was only 18.
South Dakota currently has only 4 people on death row, one of the smallest
such populations of any state that retains the death penalty. It has not
carried out an execution since 1947, and is one of five states with
capital punishment not to have put anyone to death since capital
punishment's reinstatement in 1976.
South Dakota also played a crucial role in the U.S. Supreme Court's Roper
v. Simmons decision that banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
Legislation barring the execution of those under 18 passed in the state in
March 2004, which contributed to the "evolving standards of decency"
notion cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2005 Roper verdict.
For more information on AIUSA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty,
please go to http://www.amnestyusa.org/abolish/.
(source: Amnesty International)
Page to be 16th executed in S.D.
The 1st and most famous execution in South Dakota history has parallels to
what may become the state's most recent one - the execution of confessed
murderer Elijah Page, who is scheduled to die this week.
There are those who believe Page should not be executed, despite admitting
to torturing and killing Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish in March 2000.
And there were those who thought Jack McCall should not have been hanged
for shooting Wild Bill Hickok in a Deadwood saloon on Aug. 2, 1876.
"There was a lot of controversy when McCall was found not guilty by the
so-called miner's court," Doug Sall, director of the Dakota Territorial
Museum in Yankton, said. "Half of the people thought that was OK because
they wanted to get rid of Wild Bill, and the other half supported Hickok
and called for the arrest of this guy, who at that point had taken off and
headed to Wyoming."
After being acquitted in his initial informal trial in Deadwood, McCall
was eventually found guilty at his official trial in Yankton, and he was
hanged on March 1, 1877, 2 miles from downtown Yankton. Sall said about
1,000 people followed in a caravan to witness the hanging.
But, Sall said, before McCall was hanged, his case was appealed with a
"writ of error" to the Supreme Court, and President Ulysses S. Grant was
asked to commute his sentence to life in prison.
Grant did not respond to the request, Sall said, and that nonresponse
"People are still a little divided," he said.
Gov. Mike Rounds has received pressure from citizens and clergy to commute
Page's sentence, showing that 129 years later, the death penalty remains a
Some say McCall killed Hickok to get revenge for the slaying of McCall's
brother in Kansas, and others say McCall did it simply because he was
angry at a snide remark from Hickok.
Either way, McCall's hanging was the 1st of 15 executions in South Dakota
in the past 129 years, a total that could become 16 this week.
Here is a list and brief description of the other 14 cases that have
resulted in executions.
The list is based largely on research done by Carol Jennings, a government
archivist with the South Dakota State Historical Society, who based much
of her research on old newspaper stories, and includes contributions from
Dakota Territorial Museum's Sall, as well as from Jerry Bryant, research
curator with the Adams Museum in Deadwood.
Thomas Egan, though apparently innocent, was hanged on July 13, 1882, in
Sioux Falls for killing his wife, Mary, on Sept. 12, 1880. Jennings said
that Egan's innocence was learned "years later when his stepdaughter
admitted on her deathbed to the crime."
Jennings said the stepdaughter admitted that she had "quarreled with her
mother, beat her about the head and pushed her into the cellar."
Dying an innocent man wasn't the only misfortune to befall Egan, according
to Jennings. It took three hangings before he finally died. Brave Bear
Brave Bear was hanged in Yankton on Nov. 15, 1882, for killing pioneer
settler Joseph Johnson in Sully County on May 15, 1879. Few other details
about the crime are available.
Brave Bear is the only man besides McCall to be executed in Yankton. Both
men were hanged in March - Brave Bear on March 9, and McCall on March 1.
Both men committed their crimes in other areas but were taken to Yankton
for trial and hanging because Yankton was the territorial capital.
James Layton Gilmore
James Layton Gilmore was hanged on Dec. 15, 1882, in Deadwood for killing
Bisente Ortiz after an argument at a freighter's camp on the old Fort
Pierre Deadwood Trail in June 1879.
"When they got into camp, they said nasty things to each other," Jennings
said. "Layton said he'd take care of (Ortiz) after he got his oxen
unhitched. He came back with his gun and shot (Ortiz)."
Jennings said Gilmore was caught soon after by wagon train drivers, but he
was let go because the wagon drivers did not consider killing a Mexican a
Gilmore was finally arrested two years later. Conflicting newspaper
reports had Gilmore running a bar and saloon on Rosebud Indian Reservation
and hiding out in Nebraska, she said.
He was tried and then hanged in 1882, more than three years after the
Nathaniel Thompson was hanged on Oct. 20, 1883, in DeSmet for killing his
wife's friend, Mrs. Blighton, on July 4, 1892, in Arlington.
Jennings said Thompson swung a knife at his wife once, but it hit the
metal part of her corset and didn't hurt her. Thompson swung again as
Blighton stepped in to help, and she was stabbed.
Jennings said Thompson's wife had wanted a divorce and was about to leave
town on a train when the incident happened. She had been staying with
John Ben Lehman
John Ben Lehman was hanged on Feb. 19, 1892, in Custer for killing James
H. Burns on July 11, 1889. Burns was a constable serving an arrest warrant
for Lehman, who had threatened to kill his neighbor, Jennings said.
"Lehman swore he would kill the next man who attempted to arrest him,"
"Burns approached with a horse-drawn wagon. Lehman saw him coming, drew
his rifle and met the wagon and told him not to come any closer."
Shortly thereafter, Lehman shot Burns "without one word," Jennings said.
Lehman was found guilty in his initial trial and then called for a new
trial, which was granted. However, he was also found guilty in the 2nd
trial and was sentenced to hang, Jennings said.
Jay Hicks was hanged on Nov. 15, 1894, for robbing and murdering
well-to-do Meade County rancher John Meyer on Dec. 14, 1893. According to
Jennings, Meyer did not believe in banks and kept his money at home, which
was a well-known fact.
Hicks netted $36 from the robbery, Jennings said. She said Hicks shot
Meyer once after getting the money and then demanded more from Meyer, who
said he didn't have any. Hicks didn't believe him and shot him again.
Meyer had two accomplices with him during the murder - his brother Robert
and a man named William Walker. Robert Hicks received life in prison for
his involvement, and Walker, who was said not to be involved in the
murder, received 10 years for not reporting it, Jennings said.
The murder occurred on Meyer's ranch north of Rapid City.
Chief Two Sticks
Chief Two Sticks was hanged on Dec. 28, 1894, for instigating the murder
of 4 cowboys in the winter of 1893 during an American Indian uprising.
Jennings said Two Sticks, 71 at the time, confessed to helping plan the
crime, which he considered to be an act of war.
The jury considered the murder as more of "an ambush than a battle" and
held Two Sticks responsible, Jennings said.
Jennings said the murder was planned because the Indians believed the
cowboys had turned them in for stealing cattle.
2 of Two Sticks' sons were involved in the murder, Jennings said. One of
them was shot and killed during his arrest, and the other was put in jail.
Charles Brown was hanged on July 14, 1897, in Deadwood for the
robbery-murder of his landlady, Emma Stone of Deadwood.
Brown was a black man born into slavery. According to Jennings, Brown
claimed he accidentally swung a cleaver at Stone's dog and hit her instead
on the night of the attempted robbery, which occurred on May 14, 1897.
"It's one of the fastest executions I've ever read about in my life,"
Jerry Bryant, research curator for the Adams Museum, said.
"From the time he killed Mrs. Stone until he dropped from the gallows was
Bryant said Brown did not die immediately.
"He dropped 6 feet, but he didn't break his neck," he said. "It took him
about 20 minutes to die. ... It took 20 minutes for his larynx to
Ernest Loveswar was hanged on Sept. 19, 1902, in Sturgis for murdering 2
Meade County homesteaders, George Ostrander and George Puck, on June 10,
The murders were apparently over a girl that Ostrander and Loveswar both
liked, according to Jennings.
Allen Walking Shield
Allen Walking Shield was hanged on Oct. 21, 1902, in Sioux Falls for
murdering Ghost Faced Bear, an Indian woman living in an isolated area
along the Little White River near Westover. Jennings said the murder
occurred on May 9, 1902, and it happened because Walking Shield was
interested in Ghost Faced Bear's daughter.
Jennings said Walking Shield murdered Ghost Faced Bear and then took her
daughter with him.
George Bear was hanged on Dec. 5, 1902, in Sioux Falls for the murder of
J.W. Taylor and John Shaw in October 1902. Bear eventually tracked down
Taylor, for whom Shaw was working, and shot him as well.
Emil Victor was hanged on Nov. 16, 1909, in Aberdeen for murdering Mildred
Christie in the South Dakota community of Rudolph on July 3, 1909.
It was the only crime for which he was tried, according to Jennings. But
she said he also brutally murdered Christie's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James
Christie, and a boy who was employed by the family.
Victor's intent was to rob the family, who ran a grain elevator and
business. He had already had altercations with James Christie before the
robbery and murder occurred, she said.
Victor killed James Christie with a hammer as he was milking a cow and
shot the other 3, according to Jennings.
He was caught a short time later with some of James Christie's belongings
and later hanged for the crime.
Joe Rickman was hanged on Dec. 3, 1913, in Bison for murdering Ellen Fox
and her daughter near Bixby in Perkins County on Sept. 28, 1913.
Jennings said that Rickman wanted to marry Fox's daughter and that Fox
"He went there with the intent to kill," Jennings said. "The articles said
he molested them and then killed them and set the house on fire and burned
it down with their bodies in it."
Rickman was the last legal hanging in South Dakota.
George Sitts was the last person to be executed in South Dakota. He was
electrocuted on April 8, 1947, in Sioux Falls for the Jan. 24, 1946,
murders of state criminal agent Thomas Matthews and Butte County Sheriff
Dave Malcolm near Spearfish.
(source: The Rapid City Journal)
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