swain hanging - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair

Wesley Homer Swain first Wood Countian to Die on Gallows since 1868


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Wesley Homer Swain who was executed at Moundsville Friday night for criminal assault on Ellere Thornton, 5 is the first man sentenced from Wood county to die on the gallows at Moundsville, and is the first Wood countian to be executed since 1868, when John Shafer was executed for murder. Shafer's execution, how ever was carried out with in the bounds of the county. He is the first white man to die on the scaffold at the penitentiary fore criminal assault, and is the first man to be hanged for any crime since 1924, being the 10th white man to die since 1899 when capital punishment was decreed. 

Judge W. E. McDougal who sentenced Swain to death, has sentenced two others to die. George Price was sentenced to death for murder of three persons, but he obtained a new trial and the jury recommended mercy and Price is serving a life sentence. David Runion is serving a life sentence for criminal assault on his grand daughter. He pleaded guilty and was immediately sentenced to death. Governor Gore, however; commuted his sentence to life.

Swain was convicted of criminal assault on Ellere Thornton, 5 the daughter of Perry Thornton, of Lubeck avenue, South Parkersburg. His conviction came with in a month of the time the crime was committed. His trial occupied two days, the jury bringing in the verdict after deliberating but half an hour. No recommendation was made for mercy and on November 12 Judge, Walter E. McDougal. sentenced Swain to hang on February 3. Arrested by Martin.

largely circumstantial the jury spent little time in its chambers before arriving at a verdict. Swain was defended by Robert E. Bills, John W. Martin and George Shedan, all appointed by the court. Prosecuting Attorney Sam W. Cain and his assistant, George W. Johnson, and Robert B. McDougle, who donated his services in the case, prosecuted Swain. A heavy police  guard was maintained at all points in the courtroom during the trial' to prevent possible suicide by Swain or mob violence.  

Many Efforts Made

Since the time of his sentence and immediate transportation to the state penitentiary many efforts have been made to save Swain's life. No appeal was taken to the supreme court as time was insufficient. to have a record of the case prepared. R. E. Bills, his attorney, and J. Howard Holt, Moundsville attorney, noted for his opposition to capital punishment spent much time in securing signatures to a petition asking commutation of Swain's sentence by Governor Gore. During that time Holt lectured here against capital punishment and advocating extensive prison reform.

Wednesday Mr. Bills and Mr. Holt with several Parkersburg persons, were at Charleston and presented a petition to Governor Gore asking that the sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. The prosecuting attorney and his assistant appeared before the governor at the same time and asked that the death sentence not be commuted. Governor Gore did not announce his decision then but on Thursday evening the state pardon attorney, speaking for the governor, declared the state's chief executive would not interfere in the execution.  

Secure Affidavits

Even as late as Friday evening, however it was understood that last minute efforts were being made to save Swain from hanging. It was reported that persons interested in his case had secured affidavits from  two jurors who sat in judgment on Swain that they did not know at that time that the death penalty could be inflicted for the crime.  

Court officials Friday afternoon pointed to the fallacy of this statement saying the judge had told the jury that the death penalty could be inflicted at the time of reading of the indictment that each juror had been questioned regarding his ideas on capital punishment and that the court in final instructions had told the jury that the death penalty could be inflicted for the crime if no recommendation was made for mercy.  

At least four Parkersburg persons witnessed Swain's execution last night. Lieut. Jack Watson and Sergeant Gordon Williams, of the city police Deputy Sheriff Roy Fought, who was Swain's jailer and Trooper Carnes of the state police left for Moundsville early Friday afternoon    

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