And in the End, Justice is Served

Execution invitation

 

The three escapees were tried for murder in Marion County Circuit Court and convicted on October 21, 1925. They were sentenced to die by hanging, with the execution scheduled for January 8, 1926. The inmates appealed their sentence, first to the Oregon Supreme Court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court (page 1....page 2).

In May of 1926 Thomas Murray committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell with a bed sheet. Newspapers reported that a note was found stating: "I killed Sweeny, Jones killed Holman. Kelley and Willos shot no one or even at anyone."

Supreme court petition cover

After more than two years of appeals and the cancellation of two previously scheduled hangings, Kelley and Willos were executed on the morning of April 20, 1928. The attorney for Willos claimed that his client had become insane while his case was being appealed. Before his execution he was examined by physicians and declared sane. Newspaper accounts report that the execution was witnessed by approximately fifty spectators. Willos told the crowd before the hood was placed over his head: "Well, I hope you are all satisfied."

In the aftermath of the escape rancher C. L. Newman promptly sought justice by appealing for financial compensation from the state for his losses. His ranch served as a resting place for the escapees as well as four men brought by the convicts on their "forced sojourn." Mr. Newman petitioned by letter to Secretary of State Sam Kozer for payment of his expenses.

The escape proved to be an embarrassment to the governor and cost the warden his job. Governor Pierce soon appointed a commission to investigate the conditions at the Oregon State Penitentiary that allowed the break to occur. The commission recommended that a new guard tower be placed in front of the administration building since that section could not be seen from existing vantage points. It recommended that a wire fence several feet high be added to the top of all prison walls. The commission also advised that a large siren should be installed to warn people living in the surrounding area of a prison escape. Finally, it suggested that more guards should be employed so that all posts would be fully manned.

On September 30, 1926 the new warden reported that "each of these recommendations have been fully carried out to the letter. It of course means a little more expense for guard hire, but that is considered better than taking unnecessary chances."

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