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Executions at the Missouri State Penitentiary

Inmates That Met Their Maker in MSP

In September of 1937, Governor Lloyd Crow Stark signed a bill calling for execution by lethal gas. No longer would the local sheriff be responsible for carrying out the death penalty for those convicted in his county. The days of public hangings in Missouri were to finally come to an end. Many members of the legislature were strongly opposed to the bill and argued that more death sentences would result. Nevertheless, Missouri was, on the whole, a state that supported the death penalty for serious crimes. The bill was changed to lethal gas instead of the electric chair, and passed. In total, 40 inmates were put to death in the gas chamber between 1937 and 1989 when MSP death row ended and all capital punishment inmates were moved to the new prison at Potosi.

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John Brown

Age: 35

Crime: Killed Kansas City, Missouri motorcycle patrolman, William Cavanaugh, in a tavern holdup on April 7, 1936.

Execution Date: March 3rd, 1938

Noted Details: Pellets released at 6:21 a.m. Pronounced dead by Dr. W.W.Rambo between 6:24 and 6:25 a.m.

William Wright

Age: 32

Crime: Killed Dr. J.T. McCampbell & negro druggist in a robbery on March 15th, 1933, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Execution Date: March 3rd, 1938

Noted Details: Pellets released at 6:21 a.m. Pronounced dead by Dr. W.W. Rambo between 6:25 and 6:26 a.m.

Last Meal: None requested.

Raymond Boyer

Age: 32

Crime: Killed W. Dale Sanford of Kansas City, Kansas on April 9th, 1936, on HWY 40 near Oak Grove, Missouri. Boyer met him in Kansas City, Missouri, and persuaded him to drive to St. Louis. After killing him he took his car and his clothes.

Execution Date: March 5th, 1938

Noted Details: Taken to the gas chamber at 5:00 a.m., entered the gas chamber at 6:18 a.m., and was pronounced dead at 6:23-6:24 a.m. by Dr. W.W. Rambo and Dr. H.S. Gove.

Last Meal: Ate breakfast at 4:00 a.m. consisting of an egg sandwich and coffee.

Johnny Jones

Age: 34

Crime: Brutally attacked a farm woman in New Madrid County, Missouri after tying her husband to a bedpost.

Execution Date: July 15th, 1938

Noted Details: Taken to the gas chamber at 12:03 a.m. Pellets released at 12:07 a.m. Pronounced dead after four minutes.

Last Meal: None indicated.

Adam Richetti

Age: 28

Crime: Richetti, Charles Arthur (Pretty Boy) Floyd, and Verne Miller, a South Dakota Sheriff turned gangster, were named by federal officials as the Kansas City, Missouri Union Station murderers. The crime took place on June 17th, 1933. Killed were federal agent R.J. Caffrey, Police Chief Otto Reid of McAlester, Oklahoma, and two Kansas City, Missouri police officers – William J. Grooms and Frank E. Hermanson.

Execution Date: October 7th, 1938

Noted Details: No time given regarding execution or actual time of death.

Last Meal: Ate the same meal as MSP employees: eggs, steak, potatoes, eggplant, corn, pineapple, cookies, and cake.

Granville Allen

Age: 28

Crime: Killed Howard Preston during a Kansas City, Missouri burglary on the night of October 19th, 1936.

Execution Date: October 28th, 1938

Noted Details: None mentioned.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Byron E. King

Age: 27

Crime: Convicted of killing George Speer, a St. Louis taxi driver, after robbing him of $3.25 on January 17th, 1936. Speer identified King on his death bed.

Execution Date: November 4th, 1938

Noted Details: Before his execution at 1:28 a.m., King smoked cigarettes and chatted with prison staff. He was dead seven minutes later.

Last Meal: None.

John Williamson

Age: 63

Crime: Convicted of killing George Williams, a farmer, near St. Genevieve, Missouri on August 11th, 1935. Williams was killed over two hogs.

Execution Date: February 15th, 1939

Noted Details: Williamson was first sen­tenced to hang for his crime.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Robert Kenyon

Age: 22

Crime: Kenyon kidnapped and murdered Dr. J.C.B. Davis of Springs, Missouri on January 26th, 1937. The crime was committed in an attempt to obtain $5,000 so Kenyon could marry his sweetheart, Opel Welch.

Execution Date: April 28th, 1939

Noted Details: Was baptized at Missouri State Penitentiary on April 26th, 1938.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Robert West

Age: 24

Crime: Killed Vivion Davidson, his childhood sweetheart, on June 8th, 1938, as she sat in an automobile near the home of relatives in St. Louis County.

Execution Date: September 20th, 1940

Noted Details: West helped to quarry the stone which was used to build the Missouri State Penitentiary gas chamber. He died in the gas chamber with Chester Jackson.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Chester Jackson

Age: 31

Crime: Jackson fatally shot Daisy Edmond, his paramour, on August 3rd, 1938, at her home in Joplin, Missouri.

Execution Date: September 20th, 1940

Noted Details: Jackson died in the gas chamber with Robert West.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Wilburn Johnson

Age: Unknown

Crime: Killed two children, Sarah Mitchell, age 13, and Willis Mitchell, age 15, on September 27th, 1940, over an argument for $5.00. The crime took place near Neelyville, Missouri.

Execution Date: January 3rd, 1941

Noted Details: Johnson also killed two others in the same incident which included the children’s grandmother.

Last Meal: Fried chicken, gravy, biscuits, lemon soda, and a cigar.

Ernest Tyler

Age: 36

Crime: Murder.

Execution Date: April 24th, 1942

Noted Details: Tyler hummed quiet snatches of the ballad “Frankie & Johnnie” while doctors from St. Louis Washington University strapped microphones to his chest so they could hear him die.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Allen Lambus

Age: 73

Crime: Murdered a teenage girl after she refused his “amorous advances.” She was killed with a pitchfork.

Execution Date: June 16th, 1944

Noted Details: While being led into the gas chamber, Lambus asked the Warden “to call the Governor man again.”

Last Meal: None mentioned.

William Edward Talbert

Age: 24

Crime: Attempted to steal a truck from Martin Twillman, a farmer from St. Louis County, Missouri. Twillman was killed in 1941.

Execution Date: November 16th, 1945

Noted Details: Tolbert acted in concert with Leo Lyles, Lee Butler, and Willie Clayton. Lyles was executed on May 25th, 1945. Butler and Clayton received life sentences.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Fred Ellis

Age: 23

Crime: Convicted of the brutal murder, beating, and burning death of Mrs. Mary Santo, age 56. The crime took place on December 12th, 1943, in Pacific, Missouri.

Execution Date: August 16th, 1946

Noted Details: Ellis acted in concert with Jesse Sanford who was executed on the same date. The motive for the crime was robbery, which netted only $5.00.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Raymond Batson

Age: 33

Crime: Raymond Batson was convicted of murder but no further information is available about his crime or his execution throughout the Missouri history & news archives.

Execution Date: March 5th, 1938

Noted Details: None mentioned.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

James Thomas

Age: 20

Crime: Raped and killed a female in Wellston (St. Louis County), Missouri in January of 1944 after holding her at knifepoint.

Execution Date: October 19th, 1944

Noted Details: None mentioned.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Leo Lyles

Age: 22

Crime: Was convicted for the 1941 slaying of St. Louis county farmer Martin Twillman. Twillman was shot when Lyles & William E. Tolbert attempted to steal the farmer’s truck.

Execution Date: March 25th, 1945

Noted Details: The Lyles execution was the first in Missouri where a female was allowed to be a witness. William Tolbert was executed for the same crime on November 16th, 1945.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Jesse Sanford

Age: 37

Crime: Sanford was convicted of the brutal robbery & homicide of Mary Santo, age 56, of Potosi, Missouri. She was beaten and burned to death on December 12th, 1943.

Execution Date: August 16th, 1946

Noted Details: Sanford was executed with a codefendant, Fred Ellis. The two obtained only $45.00 in the robbery.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Van Lee Ramsey

Age: 36

Crime: Murdered Lena Davidson, age 19, a waitress, during a robbery in St. Louis, Missouri on May 1st, 1945. Ramsey slit her throat.

Execution Date: January 9th, 1947

Noted Details: None mentioned.

Last Meal: Spring fried chicken, french fried potatoes, cream gravy, peas, biscuits, and lemon pie.

Marshall Perkins

Age: 59

Crime: Perkins was convicted in Jackson County, Missouri of the brutal rape of 13-year-old Gladys Jeffries as she was going home from a movie on June 2nd, 1945.

Execution Date: January 24th, 1947

Noted Details: Perkins’ trial made legal history when the Missouri Supreme Court upheld for the first time the use of a recorded verbal confession in circuit court. Perkins served two previous sentences for assault with intent to kill. He also served time in Kansas, Michigan, and Illinois.

Last Meal: Fried chicken, cream gravy, french fries, peas, hot biscuits, jelly, peach pie, milk, and coffee.

Floyd Cochran

Age: 36

Crime: Cochran of Columbia, Missouri was convicted of the rape & slaying of Mary Lou Jenkins, a former Stephens College student. Jenkins was strangled with a lamp cord on February 5th, 1946, at her home in Columbia.

Execution Date: September 26th, 1947

Noted Details: Cochran was arrested after he killed his wife with a shotgun. He admitted his crime.

Last Meal: Cochran ordered T-bone steak, french fries, scalloped corn, cream gravy, bread, butter, cake, and coffee and then decided not to eat his meal

Ernest Afton Scott

Age: 29

Crime: Convicted of killing his wife, Verla Scott, by shooting her with a rifle on March 29th, 1948 in Mountain Grove, Missouri.

Execution Date: November 4th, 1949

Noted Details: Before killing his wife, he shot and killed Circuit Judge Charles H. Jackson of Mountain Grove, Missouri. Scott thought the two were having an affair.

Last Meal: Declined a special meal stating, “the regular food here is good enough for me.”

George Bell

Age: 35

Crime: Shot and killed a Kansas City, Missouri police officer at an apartment during a gun battle on September 20th, 1948.

Execution Date: December 2nd, 1949

Noted Details: During the gun battle, Scott killed four policemen and a bystander.

Last Meal: Fried chicken, french fries, and ice cream.

Charles Tiedt

Age: 55

Crime: Shot & killed Fred Matchett and Mr. & Mrs. Delbert Matchett in St. Joseph, Missouri on October 25th, 1945.

Execution Date: May 19th, 1950

Noted Details: Tiedt’s execution was the first death sentence to be carried out from Buchannan County, Missouri since 1909.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Claude McGee

Crime: McGee was convicted of beating MSP inmate John Manor to death with a hammer in the prison yard on January 10, 1948.

Execution Date: January 15, 1951

Last Meal: Stewed chicken and biscuits

Noted Details: Before his execution, McGee was asked why he didn’t eat his last meal. His response was “I’m saving it for later.” McGee and his victim, John Manor, entered MSP in 1937 for the murder of a Mississippi County man. On October 31, 1945, he escaped with inmate Bert Ivan Grimm and kidnapped a Jefferson City insurance agent.

Willie Porter

Age: 29

Crime: Left MSP as a trustee on August 9th, 1952, and became intoxicated. He then went to Bella Vista apartments on East Capitol Avenue in Jefferson City, Missouri, and brutally beat and raped 70-year old Mrs. Belle Agee.

Execution Date: October 28th, 1952

Noted Details: Porter signed a confession. Cole County District Judge Sam E. Blair, who gave him the death sentence, was a witness to his execution.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Wes Quilling

Age: 52

Crime: Killed Louvenia Julia Webb in Kansas City, Missouri in 1951.

Execution Date: May 29th, 1953

Noted Details: Quilling also killed two other black women; Mrs. Irene Boggs and Cal E. Dodd.

Last Meal: Fried chicken, fried catfish, fried spare ribs, french fries, potato salad, rolls, fig jam, coffee, milk, pie, and cake.

Kenneth Boyd

Age: 23

Crime: Boyd shot and killed Sam Barenfeld during an armed robbery on January 13, 1951. $40 was obtained in the robbery.

Execution Date: July 10th, 1953

Noted Details: Mrs. Barenfeld and a young grocery attendant identified Boyd as the killer. A bal­listics test proved that the fatal bullet came from his firearm.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Dock Booker

Age: Unknown

Crime: Convicted of killing a friend, Earl Harrison, over an argument as to who was the best baseball pitcher. Booker killed his friend on August 15th, 1953.

Execution Date: April 1st, 1955

Noted Details: Staff at MSP were nervous because Booker’s execution was the first following the disastrous 1954 riots.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Arthur Ross Brown

Age: 30

Crime: Convicted of the brutal slaying of Mrs. Wilma Allen, age 34, the wife of a Kansas City, Missouri auto dealer. She was murdered on August 4th, 1955.

Execution Date: February 24th, 1956

Noted Details: Brown had a long history of crime dating back to age 15. He had three burglary convictions, one arson, and one auto theft. At the time of his execution, he was wanted in Wyoming for shooting Sheriff Willard Marshall of Sheridan County.

Last Meal: Ate the same meal as MSP staff consisting of soup, crackers, fried beef steak, french fries, buttered noodles, spinach, biscuits, coffee, milk, and cookies.

Thomas Moore

Age: 42

Crime: Shot his wife on May 5th, 1953, while she was in bed. His stepdaughter witnessed the crime.

Execution Date: May 13th, 1957

Noted Details: Pronounced dead at 12:09 a.m. by Warden E.V. Nash.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Sammy Aire Tucker

Age: 26

Crime: Tucker was involved in a crime spree across the country in which Herbert Goss, a police officer, was killed.

Execution Date: July 26th, 1963

Noted Details: Tucker had a partner, Douglas Thompson, who was caught one week after Officer Goss was killed. Thompson was apprehended after killing a bystander and wounding a MO State Patrol Officer.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Bonnie B. Heady

Age: 41

Crime: Heady & Carl Austin Hall kidnapped a young boy named Bobby Greenlease. They demanded $600,000 in ransom, at the time the largest ransom in the history of the nation, which was paid. Unknown to the family, Heady & Hall had already killed and buried Bobby soon after the abduction.

Execution Date: December 18th, 1953

Noted Details: The judge who sentenced Heady & Carl called it the “most cold-blooded, brutal murder” he had ever tried. They were executed side by side. Heady was the only woman to be executed in the gas chamber.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Carl Austin Hall

Age: 34

Crime: Heady & Carl Austin Hall kidnapped a young boy named Bobby Greenlease. They demanded $600,000 in ransom, at the time the largest ransom in the history of the nation, which was paid. Unknown to the family, Heady & Hall had already killed and buried Bobby soon after the abduction.

Execution Date: December 18th, 1953

Noted Details: The judge who sentenced Heady & Carl called it the “most cold-blooded, brutal murder” he had ever tried. They were executed side by side.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Ronald Lee Wolfe

Age: 34

Crime: Three days after being released from the Federal Prison in Atlanta, Georgia, Wolfe lured an eight-year-old girl from a church picnic in Troy, Missouri, and brutally raped her.

Execution Date: May 8th, 1964

Noted Details: Wolfe is buried in Longview Cemetery in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Charles H. Odom

Age: 32

Crime: Odom brutally raped and murdered a 13-year old girl on July 23, 1961, in Joplin, Missouri.

Execution Date: March 6th, 1964

Noted Details: On June 24, 1962, Odom and another Death Row inmate attempted an escape by seizing and overpowering a prison guard.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Llyod L. Anderson

Age: 22

Crime: Anderson was convicted of murdering a 15-year old delivery boy during a robbery in a St. Louis drugstore.

Execution Date: January 26th, 1965

Noted Details: Llyod L. Anderson was the last execution in Missouri by means of lethal gas.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

George “Tiny” Mercer

Age: 45

Crime: Mercer was convicted for the rape and murder of 22-year old Karen Keeton in Belton, Missouri. At the time of the murder, Mercer had a charge against him of raping a 17-year old girl.

Execution Date: January 6th, 1989

Noted Details: “Tiny” Mercer became the first person to be executed in Missouri since 1965. His execution was carried out in the former gas chamber which was converted to use lethal injection.

Last Meal: None mentioned.

Missouri State Penitentiary Tours in Jefferson City, MO