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State Executions

Tales of the Old West – A rope dangled from a cottonwood tree at 10th and Wazee streets, one end of it forming a noose.
Underneath it, on the bed of a wagon were three men, two were on their knees. One of them, a minister, was praying. The other, known as “Noisy Tom,” laid muscular hands on the third, a trembling youth named John Stoefel.
“Down on your knees don’t you know better than to act like a heathen?” gritted Tom.
Stoefel fell to his knees beside the two men. His hands were tied behind his back. His face paled the prayer was for his soul.
The noose swung in the afternoon breeze and its shadow fell across Stoefel’s shoulders. The throng which ringed the wagon stood silently.
The prayer ended and Tom and the minister lifted Stoefel to his feet. The noose was fitted around his neck. The wagon was pulled from under him.
Stoefel dangled at the end of the rope. When it was certain he was dead, his body was cut down. The crowd scattered. Summary justice had been meted out to Denver’s first murderer, and the then town of Auraria had witnessed its first local hanging.
On April 7, 1859, just a few days before the hanging, Stoefel had killed Thomas Biencroff, his brother-in-law and had taken the latter’s pouch of gold dust. Relatives of the slain man caused Stoefel’s arrest and found he had spent the gold dust at R. L. Wootton’s store.
He confessed and was tried before a “people’s court,” presided over by S. W. Wagoner. Twelve men formed the jury.
The murderer was found guilty on his own confession and forthwith executed by hanging to a tree, stated the Rocky Mountain News in its first edition, April 23, 1859. (Steamboat Pilotn, Number 47, June 21, 1973)

Execution of Marcus Gredler
For the murder of Jacob Roeder near Bear Creek, on the 12th inst., took place at Denver on Friday last. After a fair and impartial trial before a jury of the people, the following sentence was passed upon the prisoner, after being approved by the people by an almost unanimous vote: - “We the judges chosen by the people to try the case of Marcus Gredler for murder, of which crime a jury of his country has found him guilty, do hereby – on behalf of the people – pass the following sentence. That the prisoner shall be hanged by the neck until dead, on Friday the 15th day of June 1860, between the hours of two and five o’clock p.m.
We copy the following account of the execution from the Rocky Mountain News Extra: -
The condemned was carefully guarded during the night. This morning he ate a hearty breakfast at the Broadwell House, was shaved, had letters written to his wife and friends and other necessary little preparations for his end.
The Preparations
At an early hour workmen began the erection of the gallows, on Cherry Creek bottom at the foot of Curtis Street and but a short distance above the thickly settled portion of the city. Around the scaffold in a circular space – near two hundred feet in diameter – was staked off and enclosed with a strong rope.
At five minutes before 3 o’clock all was in readiness to proceed to the place of execution and the procession formed – the prisoner walking composedly between Rev.’s Kohler and Cormack, followed by a few friends and escorted by a strong police force of foot and horse.
Upon reaching the scaffold, the prisoner ascended it. After making a few remarks he requested Mr. Newman to read his confession previously prepared. The vast concourse of people listened in breathless silence. At its conclusion, the clergymen joined him in religious exercises and prayer; after which he bade good bye to those around him, then bade farewell to the people around and to the whole world – exhorting all to govern their passions.
The rope was then adjusted, the black cap drawn over his face and at half past three the drop fell. At the end of twenty minutes the attendant physicians pronounced life extinct. After hanging half an hour the body was cut down, placed in a coffin and taken charge of by the sheriff. Near four thousand persons witnessed the execution. The utmost order and quiet prevailed.
Confession of Marcus Gredler – Read on the Scaffold (Translated by Gus Newman)
We left Leavenworth April 25th. Arrived at Denver June 12th. Was often told on the road to be careful of Roeder. Deceased never was satisfied, but always quarreling about camping and everything else.
We drove out six or seven miles on our way to the Blue. Deceased often quarreled with others who happened to camp or travel with us, for which reason we usually camped alone.
We agreed together (myself, Mrs. Roeder and Pampauch) that such a man was unfit to live. I remonstrated, as it would only last three or four days more with me.
In the evening when time to camp I drove one way by mistake while deceased wanted to go another, and then the quarrel originated. I did not understand him. I then unyoked the cattle, when deceased rushed up and snatched the whip out of my hand. I said to his wife that he – deceased – was not fit to live, or worth living. Madness seized my brain and I resolved to kill him. Deceased some time after lay on the ground, and madness prompted me to act, which I then did with the ax. After killing him I fired the pistol myself. The evidence which the principal witness gave is in the main correct, with the exception that I spoke with them, and they of their own free will agreed to swear that I acted in self defense, and that deceased first fired at me. The wife of deceased told me in the presence of the other man. “Let us tell that he killed himself. We will bury him and nobody will know anything about it.
I then proposed to act as I have done, that is, to give myself up, and say that I acted in self defence; otherwise it might be found out that deceased had not been shot, and bring us all into trouble, which proposition was accepted. I did not threaten their lives if they informed on me. Everything was agreed as I have stated, and they were to remain in camp until I returned from town, on the supposition that they were to see me clear and preserve my life. I gave myself up; otherwise I could have escaped without taking the chances of losing my life in a trial.
I am satisfied with the proceedings of my trial, which have been fair and on acquittal. I willingly forgive all those who have ever wronged me. I thank the judges and jury for their impartiality during any trial, also the officers in attendance; and especially do I thank the sheriff and his deputies for their kind attention during my confinement.
I am now about to close and warn everybody to govern their passions and never be tempted to commit the act for which I am now about to pay the penalty with my life.
Before concluding let me thank the Rev. Dr. Kohler for his spiritual advice. I die in the Catholic faith sorry for what I have done and may God have mercy on my soul. Signed, Marcus Gredler.
Gus. Newman; S. Weinheim, W. N. Byers – Witnesses
Marcus Gredler
The unfortunate man who has just expiated his great crime on the gallows, was born at Collerthal in the principality of Tyrol, Germany on the 21st of March, 1829. He leaves a wife and one child in his native town. Six years ago he emigrated to the United States and three years later settled in Leavenworth, which has been his home ever since, though he has been on the plains and in Utah more than a year of that time.
During the Mormon war he was in the employ of the U. S. A. Quatermaster’s department. He was a brewer by trade.
In person Gredler is a good looking man of medium height. He seems blessed with great fortitude and calmness, or else is indifferent to his fate. When we visited with him at 11 o’clock today he was talking and laughing cheerfully with those about him.
Upon the date of his birth being mentioned, he laughed and said, It was a lucky time to be born in the middle of the Easter holidays. The natural conclusion of a spectator would be that he was a harened criminal or else of very obtuse mental faculties.
He this morning joined in religious services with the family of Rev. Mr. Kehler, and a few friends. Shortly before dinner, Gredler sent for the wife of the murdered man, and when she came, stated his motive for committing the terrible deed. It was not on his own account, but on hers. She had instigated the act – had often said she wished he, (her husband), was dead – that her life with him was a burden and many other similar statements, made repeatedly and on different occasions. She had said she was afraid her husband would kill the child, and that once in a fit of anger he had struck her and broken two of her ribs and had repeatedly and constantly abused her. He said that in sympathy for her he had done the fatal deed. He further reminded her of her agreement after her husband was killed to so testify as to clear him from punishment. The woman began crying but stoutly denied all his statements. The prisoner forgave her, and said he would die in peace with all the world.
It is proper here to say that the many current reports that the prisoner had stated that himself and the woman had been improperly intimate on the road, or that they had agreed months ago to kill Roeder or that the act when done was according to a preconcerted plan, are totally false and without foundation; at least so avers the prisoner and also that he never started any such reports. (Western Mountaineer, June 28, 1860)

Murder Most Foul
Inquest Upon the Body of Luis Rascone
Yesterday Sheriff Price, accompanied by Dr. Thombs, the coroner and a jury went to the ranch of the late Luis Rascone for the purpose of searching for his body. They took with them the two women, Rascone’s wife and a female friend, who were at the house at the time of the murder, to point out where the body was interred. On the east side of the Greenhorn, at a point below the ranch of Mr. John Rantchler, they found the ruins of the former home of Luis Rascone, the murdered man. The house had been what is known as a jacal, constructed of logs of cottonwood logs planted in an upright position in the ground and covered with a dirt roof. The building had been about fifty feet long, but it had been thrown down after the murder and the logs hauled to this city and sold for fuel. The woman pointed out a spot in the east end of the ruins where they said the body was buried. The sheriff’s party went to work, and after removing two or three feet of rubbish came to the solid ground. They dug down about four feet and came upon Rascone’s body. It was much decomposed and when removed from the ground the head fell off. The body was still dressed in the clothes which were upon it when the murder took place and the front of the woolen shirt was stiff with blood. Rascone was about fifty years of age.
It seems from a confession made by Rascone’s wife that Nunez had made an attempt to poison Rascone previous to killing him but the poison had failed to do its work, possibly on account of an overdose, and only made Rascone sick.
After the body was removed from the earth an inquest was held and the following testimony elicted:
Mrs. Josephita Sanchez, sworn – I was married fifteen years ago to Luis Rascone. That is his body and it has the same clothing on which he wore when he was murdered. I and my husband were in Pueblo and Victor Nunez complained of being a little sick and asked my husband to let him have a horse to come out to our house. The next day when we came home my husband sent him a horse to come out with my son Francisco. Victor Nunez came to our house about supper time and told us that he had left my son at a ball in Pueblo. He brought a lot of whisky along and asked my husband to take some whisky and my said – I would not drink whisky except with my friends. Then Victor Nunez told my husband to come outside and I thought they were going to talk about the Bartels security. Going out Victor Nunez told the child and woman not to come out and shut the door. Leonora (the other woman present) asked me what was going on and ran out of doors and took the little girl along and I followed. When I got out where my old man was I saw him lying on the ground and Victor Nunez sitting on his breast cutting his throat with a knife with a black handle. I was scared to death hardly knowing what I was doing and pulled Victor away, and in so doing his hand was cut. I found out his hand was cut after going into the room. Victor Nunez came after a while and asked for a pick and shovel and I was very much scared then and told him where they were. Victor Nunez slept in the house that night. He buried Luis Rascone that night in the corral.
Leonora Rodriguez (aunt of the murderer) sworn. Was at the house of Luis Rascone when he was murdered. Victor Nunez came from Pueblo and was asked to take supper and refused to eat. He brought a bottle of whisky from Pueblo and asked Luis Rascone to drink. After a little while Nunez asked Rascone to come outside of the house which he did. Nunez told the women and child not to come outside, and shut the door. I heard Luis Rascone calling to his wife for help. I went into the kitchen and Mrs. Rascone went out to where Rascone called from. When she returned I asked her what was the matter and she said they were giving her husband whisky or forcing him to drink it. The little girl in the house commenced to cry and I asked her why she was crying, and she said – My father is not any more. They have taken my father out and he is no more. I did not see Luis Rascone killed but I know he was killed that night by what his wife told me. A little while after Victor Nunez came into the house and asked for a pick and shovel and said – what a brave steer was that, but I killed him and want to bury him now. Next morning I sent the little girl out to hunt some wood and she returned saying – I found lots of chips full of blood and asked Mrs. Rascone where the blood came from. Mrs. Rascone answered. – We killed a little calf last night. The girl asked – Where is the calf? And then Mrs. Rascone told her that they had killed Luis Rascone. When Luis Rascone called out Mrs. Rascone came running back and fell in the door and fainted. Victor Nunez said – if you ever tell I will cut your throat, for I am used to killing goats. I am satisfied that the body before me is that of Luis Rascone who was killed that night by Victor Nunez. It was on the night of October 13th, 1877. I left next morning after the murder. My husband came and took me to Pueblo.
The coroner’s jury found a verdict in accordance with the facts in the case implicating Victor Nunez as the murderer of Rascone.
This murder seems to have been one of the most cold blooded and deliberate on record. Rascone was a man of some property and who stood well among his neighbors. Nunez seems to have coveted not only Rascone’s property but his wife.
It would seem from the facts in the case that Nunez killed cattle in Rascone’s neighborhood and left the hides near the latter’s corral. Rascone was then indicted for cattle stealing and placed under bail and left the country. The scheme was well planned and no doubt would have been successful had it not been for the little girl who told the story to Sheriff Price.
It seems that on the night of the murder Nunez and Mrs. Rascone occupied the same bed and took possession of the dead man’s effects, selling his cattle and going to Georgetown with his teams.
The facts in connection with this case show how anxious the Mexicans are to shield one of their race guilty of the crime of murder even if the victim is another Mexican. Nunez was notified by another Mexican, who is considered an honest man here, of the coming of Sheriff Price to Georgetown and immediately decamped causing the officer much trouble and expense. Previous to starting for the scene of the murder on Thursday the sheriff went to a Mexican house where the little Indian girl one of the witnesses was living and asked for her. He was informed that some of her friends had taken her to the Cucharas and she would be back in six days. The sheriff fears she has been murdered and says he will hold the parties to a strict accountability if they fail to produce her. (Colorado Weekly Chieftain, September 19, 1878)

Victor Nunez, the murderer of the Mexican, Rascone, will swing at Pueblo tomorrow unless Providence or the Governor interposes. The crime which he will then expiate is one of the most dastardly on record, the deed having been perpetrated in complicity with the wife of Rascone, and was the outgrowth of a guilty intimacy that existed between the two. An error regarding the arrest of the murderer has crept into the papers of the state that might as well be rectified before the entire matter passes onto the records of the past. It has been stated that Nunez was arrested at Nevada in Gilpin county at the salt works in this county and at various places in the state but never correctly. The fact is that Sheriff Minger and A. McFarlane, deputy sheriff of Gilpin county, made the arrest one night about the first of last August, at Charley Lowe’s ranch, four miles from Fairplay. He had been working there for some days under the name of Mexican Joe. (Fairplay Flume, March 13, 1879)

Alia Sentenced to Hang During Week July 12th
Denver, March 21 – Judge Whitford today denied the motion for a new trial for Guiseppe Alia, who was convicted of the murder of Father Leo Heinrichs, and sentenced him to be hanged during the week beginning July 12th next.
Last night Alia made repeated attempts to commit suicide by beating his head against the iron bars of his cell. His head is covered with bruises and when he was brought into court this morning he was so weak that he had to be supported by the officers.
After the court proceedings Alia was taken back to the county jail where he will be watched closely until he is removed to the state penitentiary at Canon City which will take place within the next few days. (Daily Journal, (Telluride) March 21, 1908)    

All the details connected with the Garcia hanging have not yet been completed, but it is understood that the doomed man will be hanged on Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock and that the hanging will be public. Sheriff Parsons, of Bent County, where the crime of which Garcia is convicted was committed, will conduct the hanging, Sheriff Mee having no desire to carry out the sentence of the court. The place of execution is about a mile and a half north of the city, west of the old Cozzens ranch near the line of the Denver & Rio Grande road. Carpenters were on the ground yesterday erecting the scaffold under directions of the officers. The rope with which Garcia will be hanged is here, and the knot will be tied today all ready for adjusting. Garcia is now being prepared for death. He is cool and calm, and gives no outward appearance of fear of the execution of the court’s sentence. It is not likely that he will be reprieved and the sentence will unquestionably carried into effect on Saturday. (Colorado Daily Chieftain, December 19, 1884)

Confession of A Murderer
Hibbard, the Las Animas county murderer, who was hanged on April 24th, confessed before his death to County Physician Brown, admitting his guilt. Hibbard said he learned that old man Knowles had about $1,500 cash, so one evening he shot him in the back of the head. The bullet glanced and did not enter the skull, but stunned the victim and Hibbard then dragged the body to the place where it was afterward found and buried it. Hibbard said the murder was committed November 8th and that Knowles was alive when buried. He further said he got either $1,265 or $1,275 in money off of Knowles’ person, and took the dead man’s wagon and team and traveled eastward on the route on which he was trailed after the murder was discovered. He said that he paid $750 for an interest in a saloon in southern Kansas, gave his father $100 and the balance he spent in travel, gambling and dissipation. If ever a scoundrel deserved hanging it was Hibbard. (Colorado Daily Chieftain, April 29, 1885)

Andrew Green Hanged
On Tuesday afternoon Andrew Green, the colored man who shot Whitnah the Denver Broadway street car driver, was hanged by Sheriff Cramer on a gallows erected in the bed of Cherry Creek at the foot of Moose street. The crime was committed on the night of May 19 and was one of the most cold blooded ever perpetrated. As Whitnah’s car came to the up town turntable and as he was almost ready to return, green stepped into the boot and cooly shot the driver. For some time the affair was the talk of the city and clues of all sorts were obtained, until finally Green acknowledged his guilt to a fellow who betrayed him and secured the reward.
The gallows were of the simplest make, fourteen feet high and with weights calculated to break the neck of the criminal without snapping it off.
The procession left the jail at one o’clock in the afternoon; carriages being arranged in the following order; Hack containing deputy sheriff and jailor, platoon of police, colored choir and minister, Sheriff Cramer, Green counsel and Rev. Mr. Gray, visiting sheriffs and last private carriages.
In the sand a space eighty feet square had been fenced off by ropes and inside of this the gallows was located. Inside the ropes were sheriffs of other counties, the choir, reporters and doctors. At a quarter to two the death warrant was read. “Why not To-Night” was then sung by the choir. Green was then allowed to read his speech. In this he acknowledged having committed the deed, but said that it was not murder in the first degree as he did not mean to kill Whitnah.
At 2:25 o’clock the black cap was adjusted, arms and feet of the criminal tied and Sheriff Cramer cut the small rope which held the weight. The body did not go up with sufficient force to break the neck and the doomed man arose slowly to four feet above the ground. Then after a moment of calm the legs and arms jerked and soon the body was all in motion. The man was about twelve and one-half minutes to dying.
At 2:52 the body was cut down and sealed in the coffin, the undertaker, taking it to prepare for the grand funeral in the Mammoth rink Thursday afternoon at two o’clock.  (Salida Mail, July 30, 1886)

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