This week in 1984

“I have no hatred in my heart, and as I leave this world, I ask
God to forgive what . . . I have done.”

— Elmo Patrick Sonnier, convicted of murder, electric chair, Louisiana.
Executed April 5, 1984

Sister Helen Prejean wrote her book “Dead Man Walking” about Sonnier and convicted murderer Robert Lee Willie, and they were the basis for a composite character played by Sean Penn in the film adaptation of the book. Prejean became spiritual adviser to both men when they were imprisoned for their crimes: Sonnier was convicted of murdering a teenage couple in a sugarcane field in New Iberia. Willie was convicted of raping and murdering an eighteen-year-old woman. He was executed at a later date.


This week in 2001

“Tonight I dance on the streets of gold. Let those without sin cast the first stone.”

— Jason Massey, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed April 3, 2001

Massey boasted in a diary that he wanted to be the “greatest ever” serial killer. He abducted a thirteen-year-old girl, and her body was later found raped, stabbed, disemboweled, decapitated, mutilated, and shot in the back. The girl’s stepbrother was found nearby, shot in the head.

During his final statement, Massey told the girl’s family where they could look for her missing remains and told them, “I want you to know that Christina did not suffer as much as you think she did.”


This week in 1936

“I am glad that my life in a world which has not understood me has ended.”

— Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted of kidnapping and murder, electric chair, New Jersey.
Executed April 3, 1936

Hauptmann was executed for “the Crime of the Century,” the abduction and kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the toddler son of famed pilot Charles Lindbergh. It was hypothesized that the Lindbergh baby actually died during the abduction, when he was dropped from the ladder used to climb into his nursery. Decades later Hauptmann’s widow maintained her husband’s innocence, calling him “framed from beginning to end.”

Hauptmann’s case was included in the 1992 book “In Spite of Innocence” among almost two dozen cases in which the editors believed “an innocent person was executed.”


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