1917 Death Chamber, Ohio Penitentiary, Columbus, Ohio

1908, Ohio State Penitentiary, Columbus, Ohio

Capital punishment has been a part of Ohio’s justice system since early in the state’s history. From 1803, when Ohio became a state, until 1885, executions were carried out by public hanging in the county where the crime was committed. In 1885, the legislature enacted a law that required executions to be carried out at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.  The first person to be executed at the Ohio Penitentiary was Valentine Wagner, age 56. Wagner, from Morrow County, was hanged for the murder of Daniel Shehan from Mt. Gilead. Twenty-eight convicted murderers were hanged at the penitentiary.

In 1897, the electric chair, considered to be a more technologically advanced and humane form of execution, replaced the gallows.  From 1897 to 1963 there were 315 persons put to death in the electric chair including three women.

In 1972, Death Row was moved to the newly opened Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) at Lucasville.   Death Row was relocated again in 1995 to the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio. The "Death House" remains at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

On February 26, 2002, Ohio’s electric chair, nicknamed "Old Sparky," was decommissioned and disconnected from service. The original electric chair was donated to the Ohio Historical Society on December 18, 2002, and a replica electric chair was donated to the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society.

Source:  Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction - Transcribed by Sandra Cummins

Photo: Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

Photo from: Athens Messenger, 6/22/1930

Found guilty of the murder and robbery on Wednesday, Oct. 2nd, 1928, of Harry Green, Kimberly, Ohio, miner and shell-shocked veteran of the World War.  James Litteral was a former resident of Snake Hollow, near Nelsonville, and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sanford Litteral, Sr. of Athens County. 


JAMES LITTERAL



Age 43

WHITE MALE

COAL MINER

MURDER-ROBBERY

ELECTROCUTION JUN 20 1930

ATHENS, OHIO

BROTHER TELLS STORY; MURDER CHARGE FILED
James Litteral, 42, is Under Arrest at Baker, Oregon, Telegram States
By C.H. Bartlett, Messenger Staff Writer
Nelsonville, Nov 7 .- Charged with the murder on October 2nd of Harry Green, Kimberly miner and shell-shocked veteran of the World War, James Litteral, 42, is under arrest at Baker, Oregon, according to a telegram received yesterday by R.D. Williams, prosecuting attorney of Athens County.
A warrant charging first degree murder was filed against Litteral in the court of Mayor L.J. Eberle at Nelsonville last Saturday after a brother, Henry Litteral, Nelsonville, had made important disclosures which, according to officers, implicated James Litteral in the crime.  A copy of the warrant was wired immediately to the sheriff's office at Baker.  Acting Police Chief George Bateman, Nelsonville, and Special Officer Peter Barrows of the county prosecutor's office, left this morning for Oregon and expect to reach their destination late Saturday night.  Litteral will be returned to Nelsonville for preliminary arraignment within the week, officers say. 
The murder and robbery of Harry Green, which occurred at Kimberly on Wednesday, October 2, is viewed generally as one of the most atrocious crimes in local history.  Green returned from service overseas at the close of the World War, shell-shocked and despondent.  He had worked at Kimberly for several years, lodging at the home of Alfred Wolf.  A harmless and inoffensive type of citizen, in his melancholy periods he wandered alone about the Kimberly hills.  It seemed to be common knowledge that he carried about his person several hundreds of dollars.  When he failed to return to his lodging place on the day of his disappearance, searching parties were organized and the bullet-riddled body was found about 9 o'clock at night in a ravine, where apparently it had been ruthlessly thrown after being dragged a considerable distance.

BROTHERS HELD
With several others, James and Henry Litteral, brothers, were detained by county officers on the Friday following the crime and held several days for questioning.  They were released subsequently and James Litteral, who with his wife and two children, had arrived here by automobile from Oregon on September 9, the first day of the Nelsonville Home-Coming, is said by officers to have started on the return trip to Oregon on the day he was released.  Officers say that Henry Litteral, who resides in Parkdale, Nelsonville, had planned to return West with his brother, but following his release gave up the trip.  James Litteral is a former resident of Snake Hollow, near this city, and has been in Oregon for about eight years.  He worked formerly at the Snake Hollow Mine.  He is a son of Henry Litteral, Sr., of this vicinity.
Local and county officers have been very active and persistent in their efforts to clear up the Green case.  About ten days ago, Mayor L.J. Eberle and Police Chief George Bateman attacked the problem with renewed interest when it was learned that a Kimberly resident who had lodged at Alfred Wolf's home with Green, had had occasion to have changed a $50 bill at a local store.  The prosecutor's office and the sheriff's office cooperated with the Nelsonville authorities and the lead was followed closely for several days, resulting however, in the suspect being released after much of his story had been verified.

NEW INFORMATION
Repeated questionings along this line are said to have so aroused Kimberly citizens that certain new information, which the officers decline to discuss was received, it is stated, and last Friday night Henry Litteral again was called to the City Building to repeat the story of his and his brother's actions on the day of the Green murder.  Litteral was held here over night and on Saturday morning was taken to Athens and in the presence of Prosecutor Williams, Officer Barrows, Mayor Eberle and Chief Bateman, is declared by the officers to have made startling disclosures which apparently justified the authorities in issuing a first degree murder warrant for the arrest of James Litteral.  Much of the story of Henry Litteral, who is held at Athens as an important witness, had been corroborated officers say.  It is believed that approximately $900 was removed fro Green's body after the killing.  The telegram received yesterday from Baker, Oregon, signed by Henry McKinney, sheriff, was worded as follows:  "I hold James Litteral who says he will return without extradition papers provided you return him to Baker.  He does not act guilty. Maintains innocence and seems to bear a good reputation."
Officers Barrows and Bateman expected to arrange for extradition papers, however, as they passed through Columbus this morning.

[The Athens Messenger, November 8, 1929]


JAMES LITTERAL HAS CONFESSED TO MURDER OF GREEN, WIRE SAYS
Man being brought back from Baker, Oregon, Admits Killing, According to Telegram Sent to Eberle by Nelsonville Officer .
Nelsonville, Nov 12 - James Litteral, in custody of Acting Police Chief George Bateman, Nelsonville, and Peter Barrows, special county officers, now enroute to Athens County from Baker, Ore., has confessed, it is reported.  Litteral is charged with the first degree murder on a warrant issued from the court of Mayor L.J. Eberle, Nelsonville, in connection with the killing and robbery of Harry Green at Kimberly, Wednesday, October 2.  News of the reported confession is contained in a telegram received just yesterday afternoon by Mayor Eberle from Chief Bateman.  The message, filed at Glenn's Ferry, Idaho, was as follows:  "Jim has confessed.  Everything going fine. Notify R.D. Williams."

[The Athens Messenger, November 12, 1929]


LITTERAL IN DAZE WHILE 10 OF STATE WITNESSES TESTIFY
Defense Counsel attempts to Prove Green Murder Had been Suggested to Litteral - Henry Litteral Relates in Detail of Defendant's Need for Money Before Slaying. - Litteral was indicted for first degree murder by a special session of the October Grand Jury.  When arraigned following the return of true -?-, he entered a plea of guilty.  This is the first instance of such a plea being entered into a murder charge in Athens county.  Instead of pronouncing the sentence after the arraignment as is customary when pleas of guilty are entered, Judge Worstell ordered a hearing for the purpose of getting testimony to determine Litteral's guilt.  Penalties of death or life imprisonment may be imposed, it is said.

[The Athens Messenger, December 10, 1929]


MURDERER OF YORK MINER IS EXECUTED
LITTERAL WAS SMILING AS HE FACED DEATH
RESIGNS SELF TO FATE AFTER ALL PLEAS FAIL

James Litteral First Athens County Man to Meet Death for Crime
By C.H. Bartlett, Messenger Staff Correspondent and Witness to Litteral Execution
James E. Litteral, 43, murderer of Harry Green, Kimberly, World War veteran and miner, smilingly resigned himself to his fate of death in the electric hair at the Ohio State Penitentiary, Columbus, Friday night, and after shaking hands with all witnesses in the prison, was electrocuted. 
Thirty minutes before he died, Litteral was baptized by immersion in the prison chapel by the Rev. Willis Stump, pastor of a Columbus Pentecostal Church, and made a member of the pastor's church.  Litteral was the first man to be sentenced in the Athens County common Pleas Court to death by execution.
Litteral entered the death chamber shortly after 9 o'clock.  His request to be permitted to shake hands with all the witnesses was granted by Warden P.E. Thomas.  To each of the witnesses he said "God bless you."  He then seated himself in the death chair and before the electric current was turned on, he said, "Lord have mercy."  The first charge was applied at 9:03 o'clock, another a minute later, and at 9:10 o'clock, Litteral was pronounced dead by an attending physician.
Hundreds of persons viewed the body Saturday after it was brought to the mortuary of C.L. Stout, Nelsonville, where simple funeral services were held at 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon.  Burial was in Greenlawn Cemetery.
Litteral, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sanford Litteral, living in Snake Hollow, near Nelsonville, was born in Greenup County, Ky.  He never attended public schools, except for two or three months when he was six years old.  When 17 years old he was married to Hulda Keltey.  In Kentucky he labored in clay mines and in forests as a lumberman.  He then went to Michigan, where he worked in various factories, later coming to Nelsonville, where he spent several years working in the Snake Hollow Mine.  Nine years ago, he and his family moved to Baker, Ore., where he was employed as a lumberman and a washer in gold mines. It was while visiting with relatives here early last fall that he planned the murder of Green.

FATHER WAS TWELFTH MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY TO ANSWER DEATH CALL
When James E. Litteral was electrocuted Friday night at the Ohio Penitentiary for the murder of Harry Green, Kimberly, death made its twelfth visit to his family. Eleven of Litteral's children are dead.  A son, James Jr., born while he was in the state prison, died about two months ago.
Suffering with a cancerous growth in a hospital at Baker, Ore., Mrs. Litteral is expected to live only a few months.  She had planned to visit her husband shortly before the execution, but was prevented by her illness.

[The Sunday Messenger, Athens, Ohio Sunday June 22, 1930 - transcribed by Sandra Cummins]

Photo:  Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

HARRY DODDS, JR.


AGE 21
PAROLEE
MURDER-BURGLARY
ELECTROCUTION,  FEB 24, 1950  
ATHENS, COUNTY OHIO

 
Harry Z. Dodds was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dodds, Sr., of Carbondale, Ohio. 

Harry Dodds, Jr., was convicted in Athens county, Ohio, of the brutal hammer slaying and robbery of 52 year-old Eleanor E. Gifford, Episcopal church field worker, in her home Jan. 3, 1949.

 

Seek Clues In Brutal Killing
Athens - Sheriff George Bateman of Athens county today awaited results of finger print tests in an effort to identify the brutal slayer of Miss Eleanor E. Gifford, 52, Episcopal church field worker.
Miss Gifford's body was found Thursday in her home near here.  She had been beaten on the head with a heavy instrument, possibly a tire tool.
"The murder was the work of a fiend," Sheriff Bateman said.  "He had to be -- the unusual brutality shows that."  Coroner John H. Elias, who ruled the death a homicide, said "the slayer must have been a maniac."

[MANSFIELD NEWS-JOURNAL , Mansfield, Ohio January 8, 1949]


Report Death Car Near Crooksville
Search for a stolen automobile linked with the slaying of a 52 year-old Athens church worker Jan. 4, centered at C rooksville this afternoon after Marshal John Brown said a resident there had reported seeing the machine.
Marshal Brown notified state highway patrolmen and other authorities after the report was received and personally led a search in the Crooksville vicinity.
The car was taken from the home of Miss Eleanor Gifford who was found murdered at Athens.  The auto, bearing license number X-866-K,  is a 1948 Chevrolet sedan.  The car was reported missing from Miss Gifford's home a short time after her body was discovered.

[THE ZANESVILLE SIGNAL, Zanesville, Ohio, January 18, 1949]


NEW STRAITSVILLE YOUTH CONFESSES MURDER
Two New Straitsville Men In Athens Jail For Murder
ATHENS, O., Feb. 6 - Sheriff George Bateman brought back to the Athens county jail late Sunday night Pvt. Grover E. Rawlins, while other authorities continued a search for an unnamed Columbus bartender implicated in the fatal beating of Miss Eleanor Gifford, 52 year old church worker who was slain during a robbery of her home here Jan. 3.
Rawlings, 21, a native of New Straitsville, thus joined in jail Harry Dodds, Jr. 20, from the same town to await the filing of murder charges.
Meanwhile one of the routine events that occurs in the jail every Sunday was omitted here yesterday.  No church services were held as is customary.
Dodds, Rawlins, and the man sought, have been implicated in the robbery that resulted in death for Miss Gifford.  Dodds confessed Saturday in Athens that he beat the prominent church worker about the head with a claw hammer when she caught the three men in the act of robbing her home.
Rawlins involved Dodds when he was questioned by army officers at Fort Knox.  He told how he had gone into the room where the ex-convict was beating the aged woman after hearing her cries.
Dodds was released from the Mansfield reformatory last July 22, after serving two sentences, totaling four and one-half years for auto theft and breaking and entering.  He was said to have become acquainted with Miss Gifford in 1944 when he attended a Sunday school class she taught.  At that time Dodds was living in Carbondale. In his confession he told authorities he did not mean to kill Miss Gifford, but that after he struck the first blow he "Lost his head."
Dodds was arrested last Monday, and stood up under questioning.  Paul E. brown, as special investigator had dug back into Miss Gifford's past when law-enforcing officials were unable to find a clue to the murderer.  In his search for information, he learned Dodds had once declared "I'm going to beat her head in" when speaking of Miss Gifford whom he also once blamed for his being sentenced to the reformatory.
Rawlins, who had been home on a furlough for the holiday season was questioned by Fort Knox officials and last Saturday involved Dodds.  It was then the ex-convict admitted his role in the killing.
Rawlins, Dodds and the hunted man fled after the beating in Miss Gifford's car which was also the subject of a wide search.  It was found abandoned Saturday in a Dayton parking lot.  A wrist watch and two cameras also taken from Miss Gifford's home have since been located.

[THE TIMES RECORDER, Zanesville, Ohio, February 7, 1949]


Perry County Slayer Faces Chair Tonight
Columbus O. - Harry Z. Dodds of New Straitsville is scheduled to die in the electric chair tonight for the hammer slaying of an Athens church worker. The 21 year-old youth lost his last chance to escape execution yesterday when Gov. Frank J. Larusche refused to intercede.
Dodd's counsel last week asked the pardon and parole commission to comjute the sentence to life imprisonment.  They also asked a stay of execution until after a trial of a third man also being held in the slaying of Miss Eleanor Gifford.

[THE ZANESVILLE SIGNAL, Zanesville, Ohio, February 24, 1950]


Dodds Executed At State Prision
Columbus, O.- Harry Z. Dodds, 21, convicted slayer of a 52 year old Athens, O., church worker, went to his death last night in the Ohio penitentiary electic chair.
Outwardly calm but with his eyes close, Dodds was led into the death chamber at 8:03 p.m.  Nine minutes later a prision physician pronounced him dead.  Dodds never opened his eyes while he was in the death house.
He was convicted for the hammer slaying of Miss Eleanor Gifford at her home Jan. 3, 1949.
The New Straitsville youth was accompanied on the short walk from his cell by the Rev. K. E. Wall, Protestant chaplain, who baptized Dodds in the Baptist faith yesterday.  The chaplain recited the 23rd Psalm and Dodds prayed in a low voice as guards strapped him to the chair and fastened electrodes on his head and right leg.  The condemned man's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dodds, Sr.,  visited him yesterday.  Two brothers Donald and Will Dodds, and a sister Mrs. Maybelle Dower, all of Carbondale, were allowed to visit him Thursday.
Two other men accused of taking part in the robbery-slaying are in prison.  Grover E. Rawlins, 18, of St. Clairsville, is serving a life term in the penitentiary.  James B. Armstrong, 26, of Columbus, captured recently after a search of more than a year, is awaiting trial at Athens.

[The Coshocton Tribune, Coshocton, Ohio, February 25, 1950]


3 Judges to Try Columbus Man on Murder Charge
Athens - A three-judge court was completed today to try James B. Armstrong of Columbus on a first degree murder charge in the slaying of Miss Eleanor Gifford, Athens Episcopal church worker.


Judges James Collier of Lawrence county and Earl Parker of Waverly wer named yesterday to sit with Judge Roy Williams of Athens county.  The trial is slated for March 27.  Harry Z. Dodds was electrocuted Feb. 24 and Grover Rawlins is serving a life term in Ohio penitentiary for their part in the slaying.

[CHRONICLE-TELEGRAM, Elyria, Ohio, March 10, 1950]


Gets Life Term in Slaying
ATHENS, O., March 27 - A three-judge court today sentenced James B. Armstorng, 26, of Columbus to life imprisonment in Ohio penitentiary for his part in the slaying of a moman church worker.  Armstrong had pleaded guilty to participating in the hammer slaying of Miss Eleanor Gifford, 52, of Athens on Jan. 3, 1949.
The court deliberated only 30 minutes and found Armstrong was entitled to mercy.  This made life sentence

mandatory.

[The Times Recorder, Zanesville, Ohio, March 28, 1950] - Transcribed by Sandra Cummins

Photo:  Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction

DELBERT SPENCER


Age 52
COAL MINER
MURDER
ELECTROCUTION, JUL 21 1950  
ATHENS COUNTY, OHIO

 

 

Convicted in Athens county of the July 1946 shooting death of Mrs. Pauline Bailey near Glouster, Ohio.


SMALL SON SEES MOTHER SHOT DOWN
Athens, O., July 22 - A 33 year old mother was shot and killed today as her 10 year old son stood by at a farm house near Glouster, Athens county.  Sheriff George Bateman reported  Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia authorities still sought the man.  Sheriff Bateman said the boy, Richard Bailey, is not implicated in the shooting of his mother, Mrs. Pauline Bailey.
Bateman quoted the son as saying the man came to the farm at noon, said a few words which the son did not hear, and pulled a nickel-plated pistol from his pocket as Mrs. Bailey began to cry.
Followed Through House
The boy told Sheriff Bateman his mother ran around the house as the man shot at her.  She fell in a garden at the rear, shot in the head and twice in the arm.  The woman's assailant then disappeared down the road, the boy said. The dead woman's husband, Frank Bailey, is working in Detroit, Bateman said.
Sheriff Bateman said the man implicated in the shooting drove his car, presumably from a West Virginia town, to Athens, took a taxicab from Athens to Glouster, and another cab from Glouster to the farm.
Sheriff Bateman said neither the cab driver nor the alleged assailant had been located.

[THE TIMES RECORDER, Zanesville, Ohio, July 23, 1946]



Ohio Slayer Captured In Woods of Jackson County
CHARLESTON, Aug 8 - Dirty and hungry after hiding in the woods to escape arrest for the alleged slaying of an Ohio farm woman, 47 year old Delbert Spencer, a Charleston mechanic, was found today by authorities hiding under a rock cliff in an isolated section of Jackson county.
The arrest of the heavy set man, who said chiggers "were about to eat me up" because of his living in the woods, ended an extensive manhunt of about two weeks and a search during which bloodhounds were used.
Last week at Athens O., Sheriff George S. Bateman said he had filed a murder charge against Spencer for the fatal shooting of Mrs. Pauline Bailey at their farm home at Glouster, O., July 22.
Spencer brought to the Kanawha County jail here, denied any knowledge of the shooting which occurred in the presence of the woman's young son, State Police Lt. C.P. Taylor said.  Spencer said when he was last with Mrs. Bailey he was "drinking heavily and using a sedative drug."  Taylor added.
Taylor reported that Spencer, who had a small testament in his pocket, was found lying unarmed on a pallet spread under the cliff in the woods between the town of Kenna and Kentucky along U.S. Route 21.  He offered no resistance. The man told police he had lived "strictly in the woods," eating whatever food he could get from nearby farms."
State police were assisted in the arrest by Police Chief H.W. Fisher of Ripley.

[Beckley Post-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, August 3, 1946]



Must Face Charge of Murder
ATHENS, O., Nov. 7 - Now reported same, 50 year old Delbert Spence of Athens will go on trial Dec. 5 for the three year old slaying of Mrs. Pauline Bailey in a flower garden. Spence is charged with first degree murder.
Spence has been a patient at Lima State hospital for the last three years.  Dr. R.E. Bushong, who said Spencer was judged insane three years ago after a 30 day examination, reported the Athens man now sane.
The man pleaded innocent in August, 1946, by reason of insanity. Mrs. Bailey, then 33, was shot in July 1946.  Spencer was captured 11 days later in West Virginia.

[THE TIMES RECORDER, Zanesville, Ohio, Nov. 8, 1949]



COLUMBUS, O., July 21 - Delbert Spencer, 53, who spent two years in a state hospital for the criminally insane, died in Ohio's electric chair tonight for the slaying of his former sweetheart four years ago.
The current was turned on in the Ohio penitentiary death house at 8:02 P.M. (EST) Spencer was pronounced dead at 8:08 P.M. by Dr. Richard Brooks and Dr. E.S. Anderson, prison physicians.
Spencer walked to the chair showing only slight signs of nervousness.  He was accompanied by the Rev. K.E. Wall, prison chaplain.
During the afternoon, Spencer had been visited by his sister, Mrs. Ollie Boggess of Charleston, W.Va.

[THE TIMES RECORDER, Zanesville, Ohio, July 22, 1950]
transcribed by Sandra Cummins


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