Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Botched Execution of Ira Stout

Today marks 150 years since the state of New York executed murderer Marion Ira Stout (who went by his middle name). It didn't go according to plan and Ira suffered a prolonged death that shocked and horrified witnesses. It would prove to be one final bit of bad luck for a criminal for whom karma just seemed to have it out for.

Ira murdered his sister Sarah's husband Charles on December 19, 1857. The murder was planned by the siblings and Sarah assisted with aspects of the crime. The murder was perpetrated on the edge of the Genesee River gorge, just north of the High Falls, with the intention of throwing the body into the water and making it look like an accident. Ira killed Charles with a single blow to the head from a steel hammer. It would be the last aspect of the crime to go smoothly for Ira and Sarah.

The two ran into so many problems disposing of the body that it became a macabre comedy of errors. By the time they were finished, both murderers had broken bones, were covered in dirt and still had not succeeded in actually disposing of the body. They managed to leave so much evidence at the scene of the crime that even with the poor quality of forensic science during the era, the entire Stout family was brought in for questioning within hours of the body's discovery the following morning.

Months later, while awaiting execution, Ira twice attempted suicide with the assistance of others. Both attempts were failures, including one where someone else ingested the poison that had been meant for him! His case was major news in the area and he drew support from notable Rochester citizens Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. They, along with a number of others sought to have Ira's sentence commuted to life in prison rather than the death penalty.

While the efforts delayed his execution for a few more months, Ira was still executed on October 22, 1858. Ira was executed by hanging from an indoor scaffold. In one final insult from fate, the rope slipped during the 8 foot plunge that should have snapped his neck. Instead, Ira slowly strangled to death. For a full 10 minutes, Ira danced a ghastly violent jig at the end of the hangman's rope. Witnesses to the execution are said to have been shocked horribly by the incident; covering their eyes and looking away. It took yet another 20 minutes for Ira to finally slowly strangle to death. Ira Stout, unlucky to the end.

Pay a visit to Ira's grave in Rochester's historic Mt. Hope Cemetery or visit the crime scene and find out all the things that went wrong following the murder of Charles Littles.

-Tom G

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you ever have one of those days when nothing goes right? I do. But after reading about Ira I'm going to stop bitching about them. Because really, he proves things can really be worse.