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Notable Arkansas Executions
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Thread: Notable Arkansas Executions

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Notable Arkansas Executions

    Olyphant Train Robbery Executions

    Composite cabinet photograph showing four captured members of the gang who perpetrated the Olyphant Train Robbery.
    Courtesy of Jacksonport Courthouse Museum

    During the nineteenth century, travelers on steam locomotives were at risk for train robberies. In Arkansas, one particularly high-profile train robbery happened in the small town of Olyphant (Jackson County) in 1893. What followed was a sensationalized manhunt and the execution of three bandits involved in the incident.

    On November 3, 1893, the seven-car Train No. 51 of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway pulled off to a side track so that the Cannonball Express, a much faster train, could pass. It was about 10:00 p.m. on a cold and rainy night; the train had left Poplar Bluff, Missouri, at noon that day and was headed to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Many of the 300 passengers were wealthy tourists who were coming back from the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, which had closed on October 30. Its stop was made in the small town of Olyphant, about seven miles south of Newport (Jackson County). The Irish-born conductor, William P. McNally, had been making the Poplar Bluff to Little Rock trip since the early 1880s, and his outgoing personality made him very popular on the route. At the time of the robbery, he was planning to be retired by the end of the month.

    While No. 51 was stalled, a group of bandits took the opportunity to rob it. Gunshots rang out, and the baggage attendant rushed to McNally, warning of a holdup. McNally immediately went through the passenger cars, advising everyone to hide their valuables. He also borrowed a gun from a passenger named Charles Lamb and retreated to the front of the train. The bandits eventually made their way to the front of the train, stopping to rob the passengers; the net value of what they stole reached $6,000. When they reached the front of the train, McNally fired at them, and one of the men shot him with a rifle. After a twenty-minute hold-up, the bandits made their getaway, and, once they were gone, the train made it to Little Rock. By that time, however, McNally was dead from his gunshot wounds.

    In the following days, sheriffs from ten counties pulled together posses to search for the bandits, for whom a large reward was offered. The St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway had published an offer of a $300 reward, and both the Pacific Express company and Governor William Fishback had also promised rewards, though the amount was not specified. Because McNally was such a beloved character in the railroad business, thousands attended his funeral, and a statewide fervor to find the perpetrators took hold. The ensuing manhunt created a media sensation; many “suspicious” characters were arrested and harassed all over Arkansas, and the Arkansas Gazette’s coverage of the incident filled the entire front page. There were frequent reports of near-captures and exciting gunfights with suspects as the sheriffs and their posses combed the hills for the robber gang.

    By December 1893, four major suspects had been rounded up: Tom Brady, Jim Wyrick, Albert Mansker, and George Padgett. Rather than leave the state or adopt aliases, all of them had remained within a fairly close range of the scene of the crime. The first three were tried in January 1894; all were convicted of first-degree murder for the death of McNally and were sentenced to execution by hanging. Because of his service as a witness, Padgett was not given the death penalty.

    During the trial, the robbers’ plan was exposed by Padgett, who was the main witness against the other four. The four had met in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) while peddling whiskey, and it was Padgett and Brady’s idea to rob a train. Rendezvousing at a railway station near Searcy (White County), they made plans to rob the Cannonball Express, which had cash and gold from the Federal Reserve Bank, in what they convinced each other was a get-rich-quick scheme. Only Mansker had a history of train robbing. Padgett took a ride on No. 51 and learned that it stopped in Olyphant, both to drop off mail and to allow another scheduled train to pass. Hearing that “a bunch of rich folks from Chicago” would be riding on it, the prospective thieves changed their plans, and No. 51 became the target. For a few days before the robbery, they had ridden their horses up and down the track, reconnoitering, until the night of the robbery finally came. Beforehand, they all had drunk heavily to calm their nerves.

    Officials check nooses prior to hanging the men who perpetrated the Olyphant Train Robbery.
    Courtesy of Jacksonport Courthouse Museum

    Brady, Wyrick, and Mansker were hanged on April 6, 1894, outside of the city jail in Newport. Before the hanging took place, they were allowed to address the crowd, and all three claimed innocence for the murder. The incident in Olyphant proved to be the final train robbery in Arkansas.


  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Last Man Hanging: 1913 Murder Topic Of Exhibit

    PARIS Its a murder case thats captured the attention of the area for nearly a century.

    And now those still intrigued by the 1913 Amanda Stephens murder and the 1914 hanging of Arthur Tillman in connection with the Logan County crime will be able to view the trial evidence, which now is on exhibit at the Logan County Museum.

    Jeanne S. Reynolds, museum director, said it took her from last September to May to gain custody of the trial documents from the Booneville courthouse, where the case was heard in 1913 after a change of venue. Protesting his innocence until the very end, Tillman was hanged July 15, 1914, in what would be the last legal public hanging in Arkansas.

    Emotions were high around here, said Reynolds. So much of this (case) is still shrouded in mystery.

    Amanda Stephens, the 19-year-old daughter of Greenberry Stephens of Delaware, disappeared on March 10, 1913, according to trial transcripts. She had left a note pinned to her pillow advising her father that she was leaving to make my own living and would write to him once she was settled.

    According to trial testimony, Amanda, or Mandy, as she was called, had been seeing several different young men in Delaware, including Arthur Tillman, 22, a young man who jockeyed horses at the Fort Smith fair and played baseball in the area.

    On March 18, 1913, Amandas decomposing body was found in an abandoned well on the property of Ambrose Johnson. With a bullet hole through her head and a stone tied to her neck with a wire, investigators determined that Amanda was shot in the head from above at the nearby abandoned cabin, according to Tillmans biography from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. An autopsy, performed at the Johnson home determined Amanda was four months pregnant, which provided a motive for the murder.

    Through primitive forensics using wooden dowels and shooting various calibers into a piece of wood, investigators determined Amanda had been shot with a .22 caliber weapon.

    Those wooden dowels, along with the wire found around Amandas neck and the coins found in the pocket of her red velvet dress, are among the trial evidence on display at the museum, 202 N. Vine St. in Paris from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; for information, call (479) 963-3936 or visit logancountymuseum.com.

    She had 6 cents in her pocket when she was found, but the penny disappeared, explained Reynolds, pointing to the 1888 Liberty head nickel in a display case.

    There are photos of Amandas father and her brothers. Her mother died when Amanda was about 9 years old, so she carried out the household duties such as cooking and cleaning.

    Circumstantial evidence seemed to point to Tillman as the murderer, although others were implicated throughout the investigation and subsequent trial.

    After Tillman was arrested, he escaped from custody several times, according to newspaper reports from the Fort Smith Times Record and the Southwest American.

    The first trial in Booneville, held in August 1913, resulted in a hung jury. The second trial began in October of that year and ended Nov. 1, 1913, with a jury verdict of guilty of first-degree murder.

    Judge Jeptha Evans, who presided over Tillmans trial, sentenced Tillman to death by hanging on March 10, 1914, which was the one-year anniversary of the crime. After an appeal to the state Supreme Court failed and a stay of execution from Gov. George Hays was denied, Hays sentenced Tillman to be hanged July 15, 1914.

    Tillman spent his last night alive in the Paris jail as the Arkansas National Guard surrounded the building to prevent any possible violence before the execution.

    Before a lawn full of interested onlookers and 25 witnesses inside the gallows enclosure, Tillman was escorted to the scaffolding, hanged and pronounced dead shortly after 7 a.m., exactly 97 years ago today.

    Although the electric chair had been substituted as the legal form of execution in the state by the time Tillman died, it was not effective at the time Amanda Stephens had been killed, making him the last person to be legally executed at the hanging gallows in Arkansas, according to a July 15, 1914, report in the Fort Smith Times Record.

    Some say an innocent man hanged for the crime.

    Gail Ball, the granddaughter of Ambrose Johnson, now lives near her grandfathers property where Amandas body was found. Ball was born 65 years ago in the same room where her grandmother and great-aunt cleaned Amandas decomposing body before the autopsy was performed.

    I dont think Arthur did it, said Ball, who said she grew up with family talking about the case. I grew up hearing about the story. We grew up knowing it. The land is still here in my family.

    Balls family involvement with the case piqued her interest and caused her to start researching the case about 35 years ago.

    She thinks the trial evidence now on exhibit at the Logan County Museum the same site where Tillman awaited the death penalty and was hanged for the crime will intrigue others as well.

    I would like to see the trial re-created in a courtroom with people with the jury and with people just to see, Ball said. I think it would be very interesting.

  3. #3
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
    I just wanted to post the two triple executions that Arkansas carried out in the 90's. Its one of the few states that regularly executed multiple people on the same night. Also the one in 94 was the first triple execution in the US in 32 years.


    August 4th 1994

    Arkansas Puts 3 to Death After Flurry of Appeals

    VARNER, Ark., Aug. 3— In the first triple execution in the country since 1962, Arkansas today put to death three men who murdered a prominent businessman in front of his family in 1981.

    Beginning at 7 P.M., the executions by lethal injection took place about an hour apart in a small concrete-block room here at the Cummins Unit of the state prison system. Hoyt Franklin Clines, 37, then Darryl V. Richley, 43, and finally, James William Holmes, 37, were each in turn strapped onto the same gurney to be carried to the death chamber and injected with a fatal mixture of chemicals.

    The first to face execution was Mr. Clines. Asked if he had any last words, he replied, "Nope."

    He was pronounced dead at 7:11 P.M. Fifty-eight minutes later, Mr. Richley died on the same gurney. Asked if he had any last words, he said, "No."

    Mr. Holmes was pronounced dead at 9:24 P.M. He also said, "No," when asked if he had any last words.

    Lawyers for the prisoners had filed last-minute appeals, arguing that the scheduled triple execution reduced the men to "hogs at a slaughter."

    Mr. Holmes was briefly granted a stay today by a panel of Federal judges, but it was reversed by the full United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis. The Supreme Court tonight rejected the claims of all three men.

    Though Texas leads the country in executions, Arkansas is the only state to revive the practice of putting to death more than one prisoner at a time. Two convicted murderers were executed in May.

    Before this year, the last multiple execution in the nation took place in 1965, when Kansas executed two men, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The last triple execution took place in California in 1962.

    Law enforcement officials said the multiple executions made sense because the three men committed the same crime, were tried together and pursued their appeals together. The officials have also said the schedule reduced stress on employees and saved money.

    Alandone Ables, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction, said in an interview before tonight's executions. "Our overriding concern is that the executions are done properly, with some decorum."

    The three men and a fourth defendant were convicted of killing a contractor, Donald Lehman, on Jan. 9, 1981, in a robbery at his home in Rogers, in northwest Arkansas.

    Mr. Lehman was beaten with a motorcycle chain and shot in the chest and head by four men wearing ski masks who burst into his home when he answered the doorbell. The men then dragged his daughter, Vicki Lehman, through the house in a search for money and guns.

    The police solved the case quickly partly because Mr. Clines pulled his mask off during the robbery, and Ms. Lehman saw his face clearly. Discussion of Murder

    But it was never definitively established who pulled the trigger. Arkansas law called for all four to be tried for first-degree murder. Prosecutors said that before the robbery, the men had discussed the need to commit a murder if they met resistance. Defense lawyers failed to win separate trials for them. The death sentence for the fourth man, Michael Orndorff, was struck down in 1990.

    The case has had a complicated history. After Vicki Lehman and her mother, Virginia, who was also in the house during the crime, had given statements to authorities, the prosecutors hired a hypnotist to help them remember the events more clearly.

    But the prosecutors failed to tell defense lawyers that the Lehmans had been hypnotized. In 1988, Judge Henry Woods, a Federal judge in the Eastern District of Arkansas, threw out the death penalty, ruling that the men's Sixth Amendment rights to confront witnesses had been denied.

    The appeals court then told Judge Woods to rule on whether or not there were significant differences in Vicki Lehman's testimony before and after the hypnosis. Finding no "significant variation," the judge reinstated the death penalties. The decision was upheld on appeal in the cases of all the men except Mr. Orndorff. The appeals court found that there were significant differences in Ms. Lehman's testimony involving his role.

    Bill Clinton, as Governor, had set executions three times for the three men, once in 1983 and twice in 1984. Earlier this week, Gov. Jim Guy Tucker denied clemency requests for Mr. Richley and Mr. Clines.

    "Kill me and get this comedy over," Mr. Richley told the prison panel earlier this week.



    Jan 10 1997

    An Evening of Death: 3 Murderers Are Executed

    With the prick of a needle, once, twice, three times, the state's executioners put to death three killers on a single wet, icy night in southern Arkansas.

    Two of the condemned men, escapees from an Oklahoma prison who went on a murder spree over three states, have haunted the dreams of their victims' families for 20 years. They died on schedule on Wednesday, almost quietly, refusing to say any last words.

    The third, a less-famous killer of convenience store clerks, died with a poem on his lips, dramatically, after a last-minute appeal left him strapped to a gurney for 45 minutes with the needle already inserted in his arm. The highest court in the land gave him its attention, considering a final, fine point in his case, as he lay, as the clock ticked. Then, the Supreme Court told the state it could proceed.

    It was a grim, jagged night that dismayed the people who protest state-sponsored killing. But for the families of the women and men who died at the hands of Earl Van Denton, Paul Ruiz and Kirt Wainwright, it brought relief, and revenge. It may, they hope someday, even bring peace.
    Continue reading the main story

    ''I hope I have some relief and the nightmares will stop,'' said Anne Jester, whose father, Opal James, a 58-year-old park ranger, was killed by Mr. Denton and Mr. Ruiz after their escape from prison in Oklahoma. Bound by a friendship that seemed to fall from the pages of Truman Capote's ''In Cold Blood,'' Mr. Denton and Mr. Ruiz are believed to have committed seven murders, some randomly.

    In her nightmares, ''it is always that they have escaped again, and are after me,'' she said. And she would wake afraid that it might be true, that they are loose again, Mrs. Jester said.

    Forever more, as the executioner pressed the button that sent a poison into their veins, she will wake and know it is just a dream.

    It was the second time that Arkansas has put three men to death in a single night -- the first was in 1994 -- here in this stark concrete block and chain-link prison surrounded by soggy, dull cotton fields and red mud.

    Texas and Illinois have executed two people on the same day in recent years. It is cheaper to do it this way, explained state and prison officials, because it reduces overtime costs and reduces the stress on prison employees.

    But the executions of three men in less than three hours concentrated all the pain and other feelings that emanate from such powerful events.

    And, in a room near, but out of sight of, the execution chamber, a small group of people whose lives were unalterably changed by the killers huddled together. Arkansas does not allow the relatives of victims, or of the condemned, to witness the execution. But some of the victims' relatives just wanted to be as close as possible, as the thing was being done.

    ''They took the shirt off my dad's back before they killed him,'' said Virginia Hamilton, whose father, a small-town marshal who made $100 a week for breaking up fights and giving drunk teen-agers a strong talking to, was murdered by Mr. Denton and Mr. Ruiz when he went to help them with a flat tire.

    It took her father away from her when she was 14, and ruined her mother's life, she said.

    ''Yeah,'' Mrs. Hamilton said, ''I hate them.''

    Others, like Mrs. Jester, waited for word by phone. Angela Smith Cunningham, who was just 11 on July 19, 1988, the day Kirt Wainwright shot her mother behind the counter of a convenience store in Hope, Ark., wanted to know one thing, as the execution neared: would he beg for his life, ''like my mother did.''

    As the hours ground down to 7 P.M., the start of the first execution, as the inmates sat alone or with their counselors in their ''quiet cells,'' the rain and cold combined to cover the barren trees around the prison in a sheen of glittering ice. Back in Little Rock, as the first man, Mr. Denton, began the short walk to the chamber, protesters lit a single candle.

    Earl Van Denton

    Paul Ruiz and Earl Van Denton cemented their prison friendship with a jail break from the Oklahoma State Prison at McAlester on June 23, 1977. Over the next two weeks, investigators say, they killed almost at their convenience.

    Marvin Richie, the good-natured town marshal of Magazine, Ark., a wide place in the road, got in their way by accident.

    On June 29, he got a call from a man outside town who said he saw two men pushing a tire down a road. He went to see if he could help.

    Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Denton bound him and put him in the back seat. Later that day they used his patrol car to block an isolated road as two park rangers, Opal James and David Small, happened by.

    Within a few hours, Mr. Richie and Mr. Small were shot. Mr. Richie died, and Mr. Mr. Small was handcuffed to him and made to crawl into the trunk. They shot him in the chest and left him handcuffed to a dead man for five hours in sweltering heat. His lung collapsed, but he lived. Mr. James would be killed later.

    Two weeks later, the two killers were caught in Portland, Ore., and were sentenced to die for their crimes, the first capital sentence in recent history in Arkansas.

    Their lawyers kept them alive through two decades, with re-trials and stays and appeals, for 20 years.

    The murder of her father wrecked her mother's health, Mrs. Hamilton said. Her mother was, like many women of that time and place, dependent on her husband in some ways. She did not even drive. The killing shattered her nerves, and life, the daughter said.

    ''It's not fair,'' said Mrs. Hamilton, that Arkansas spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for the men's food and legal needs.

    The fact that they took his shirt before they killed him still blazes inside her. At one court hearing, she remembers looking the killers over head to toe, from their new go-to-court suits to their new shoes. ''I couldn't tell them from the lawyers,'' she said, and began to cry.

    little before 7 P.M., Mr. Denton, a pale, bland-looking man, was buckled to a cross-shaped metal gurney, his arms outstretched. Needles were inserted into both forearms.

    He was asked if he had anything to say.

    ''No,'' he said.

    The executioners, hidden behind a curtain, injected him with poison, a solution of sodium pentothal, Pavulon and potassium chloride, as he lay quietly. He coughed, once, and closed his eyes.

    The official time of death was 7:09 P.M.

    Paul Ruiz

    Guards Said Killers Laughed at Killings

    It took only a few minutes to prepare the chamber for the second man, the 49-year-old Mr. Ruiz, a man with slicked-back graying hair and a Pancho Villa mustache.

    He found God in prison.

    ''I see no reason to fear Paul today, or to have a reason to see him dead,'' said Pat Bane, his friend, spiritual adviser and a Catholic lay minister.

    Opal James's body was missing for three days. Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Denton kept him alive a little longer than the other men they shot -- they believed they had killed Mr. Small -- because he knew the back roads.

    Mrs. Jester, Mr. James's daughter, was 25 when they found his body on July 1, 1977.

    ''The people who guarded them during the trial said they joked and laughed about the things they did,'' Mrs. Jester said.

    When asked about Mr. Ruiz and his claim to have found salvation, she said: ''I believe there is a God. God can forgive him.''

    But if he has changed, she said, why has he not admitted to his crimes and begged the families to forgive him?

    Mr. Ruiz, on the gurney, was asked if he had any final words.

    ''No,'' he said.

    He was pronounced dead at 8 P.M.

    Kirt Wainwright

    11th-Hour Reprieve Considered, Denied

    For a while, it looked as if Kirt Wainwright would cheat death, cheat the families of his victims, cheat it all.

    He was already strapped down, the needles in his arms, when Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, acting on a last-minute appeal from Mr. Wainwright's lawyer, asked Gov. Mike Huckabee to hold off on his execution as the high court considered that appeal.

    The Governor, who held Mr. Wainwright's life in his hands, knew the two women who were killed.

    Prison officials left the 30-year-old Mr. Wainwright on the gurney for 45 minutes with the needles in his arms, as the Court pondered whether to let him live to see another day.

    Dina Tyler, a prison spokeswoman, said prison officials had to decide whether it would have been more humane to leave him there, or to take him away, giving him hope, only to strap him down again.

    ''I don't know,'' she said of that choice.

    Mr. Wainwright was in his early 20's in July of 1988, when he put a gun to Barbara Smith's head in the robbery of a convenience store in Prescott, Ark. He took the money, and killed her anyway.

    The day before, he had been in on another robbery, in Hope. The clerk, Karen Ross, was shot to death, too.

    His lawyers had argued that he was not the shooter in the robberies.

    He was sentenced to die for the murder of Mrs. Smith, and was given a life sentence in the murder of Ms. Ross. While in prison, he stabbed two guards with a makeshift knife. A friend and spiritual adviser said that was because he was a proud man who would refuse to be abused by the guards

    The Supreme Court decided to let the execution continue. When asked if he had any final words, about 9:35, he read a poem he had written, about new life, about his soul flying.

    The last words were: ''Now send me to God.''

    He died at 9:50.

    Judicial Review isn't in the Constitution.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
    First Double Execution since Furman vs. GA

    May 12, 1994

    Two Men Are Executed in Arkansas

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark., May 11 — Two killers were executed here tonight by lethal injection, the first time a state executed two people on the same day since the death penalty was restored in 1976.

    Despite last-minute efforts by lawyers to block the two executions, Jonas Whitmore, a drifter convicted of killing a woman who fed him milk and cookies, was executed on schedule. He was declared dead at 8:08 P.M.

    The second man, Edward Charles Pickens, who ignored a plea for mercy during an armed robbery, died exactly an hour later.

    Mr. Whitmore, 50, was convicted of killing Essie Mae Black, who let him into her home in Mount Ida in August 1986 even though he was a stranger. The 62-year-old woman gave him milk and cookies before she was stabbed 10 times. Her throat was cut and an "X" was sliced into her right cheek. The killer also stole $250.

    During his trial, Mr. Whitmore asserted that he had experienced a flashback of childhood sexual abuse while in Mrs. Black's house.

    Mr. Pickens, 39, was convicted for the October 1975 shooting death of Wesley Noble, a 76-year-old retired farmer. Witnesses said Mr. Noble pleaded for his life just before he was killed during the armed robbery of a grocery store in Casscoe. Mr. Pickens was one of three men from Detroit involved in the robbery, in which a second man was also killed, five people were wounded, and a woman was raped. All were robbed of jewelry and money. Mr. Pickens was 21 at the time.

    Mr. Pickens's two companions also were convicted of capital murder. Antonio Clark, now 39, was sentenced to death and is serving a life term in Michigan for another crime. Vincent Gooch, now 42, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.

    Mr. Pickens's 1976 death sentence was overturned twice. But last September, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a Federal district judge's ruling and upheld the conviction and death sentence. He received a stay on Monday from a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit, but the full 10-judge court lifted the stay on Tuesday.

    His lawyer won the stay after arguing that Gov. Jim Guy Tucker should not decide Mr. Pickens's clemency request because of a conflict of interest. Lawyers on Mr. Tucker's staff when he was state attorney general helped prosecute the case.

    Mr. Whitmore's lawyers also challenged Mr. Tucker's refusal of clemency, but a Federal judge found no constitutional violation. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit upheld the judge.

    Judicial Review isn't in the Constitution.

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