State ExecutionsJOHN STOEFEL
Tales of the Old West – A rope dangled from a cottonwood tree at 10th and Wazee streets, one end of it forming a noose.
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.
noose swung in the afternoon breeze and its shadow fell across
Stoefel’s shoulders. The throng which ringed the wagon stood silently.
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.
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.
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
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
We copy the following account of the execution from the Rocky Mountain News Extra: -
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
Gus. Newman; S. Weinheim, W. N. Byers – Witnesses
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.
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
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.
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
After the body was removed from the earth an inquest was held and the following testimony elicted:
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.
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.
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
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.
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