|Death: ||May 13, 1910|
Walla Walla County
Crime and Punishment Of Richard Quinn
by R. Michael Wilson
Twenty-eight year old Richard Quinn and his wife Margaret had domestic difficulties long before they left Michigan for North Dakota in 1904, and then started for Washington in 1907. However, it seemed the difficulties had all been resolved when, in 1908, they settled at Everett, the Snohomish County seat. Quinn found work as a fireman at the Ferry-Baker Mill but lost that position, and in September was working in the woods sawing shingle bolts. These setbacks led to more arguments, and Margaret complained to friends that Richard drank too much, abused her, and often threatened to shoot her. Finally, on about August 1, Margaret left her husband for the second time since arriving in Washington and moved into the "Purdy House" run by Sadie Bond at 2920 Norton Avenue.
She found work as a domestic for a widower with three children, but on September 15 she found a more permanent position at a restaurant and was determined to make her own way. Richard was determined to disgrace his wife, and had made disparaging remarks to anyone who would listen.
On September 17 Richard was seen riding his horse back and forth near the intersection of Summit Avenue and Twentieth Street, near the Quinn home, as if he expected his wife to make an appearance. That evening he was in the Rainier Saloon, and strangely for those times was carrying his rifle, when he threatened to shoot his wife. However, no one took him seriously as he had made similar threats on previous occasions and nothing happened. On September 18 Richard Quinn telephoned Margaret and told her to come for her trunk, threatening to throw it out if she did not come immediately. Margaret started for their home near the Ferry-Baker Mill but, when she reached the intersection of Twentieth Street and Summit Avenue, Quinn appeared on horseback. He rode up and dismounted with rifle in hand, said, "Good-bye, Maggie," then shot her at such close range that the blast set her clothes afire. The bullet passed entirely through her body, entering near the center of her breasts and ranging downward until it pierced her abdomen and came out between the tenth and eleventh ribs. Later, at the autopsy, Coroner Challacombe determined that the bullet had pierced the pericardium, the membrane which encloses the heart, and passed through the liver and diaphragm shattering the spleen before exiting.
William Watts, a neighbor of the Quinn's, heard the shot and a woman's scream so he ran out and saw Richard standing with bridle in hand, watching his wife stagger along the sidewalk toward James C. Devery's home at 2006 Summit Avenue. Margaret went through the gate to Devery's porch and collapsed in a sitting position. Watts yelled at Richard so he mounted and rode off, and Watts returned to his home to get his rifle. When Watts returned to the scene of the shooting he found that Richard, still mounted, had also returned and was trying to take aim at Margaret. Watts pointed his rifle at Richard and threatened to shoot if he fired again, so Richard galloped down Twentieth Street. Later some witnesses would claim they heard two shots fired by Richard while others insisted there was one, and Margaret had but one wound.
Immediately after the shooting a report reached the police station that Quinn had barricaded himself in his house and would defy the officers but within an hour, before a force of officers could be dispatched, Quinn arrived at police headquarters with brother-in-law Bert Mason and surrendered. Quinn was placed in a patrol wagon to be taken to the county jail at Everett, and begged the patrolman to sit close to him so he would not be shot while in transit. Richard's friends and relatives then came forward and said that Mrs. Quinn had a gun and had threatened to shoot her husband and, though Richard claimed the shooting was accidental, they said it may have been in self defense. Margaret's room and belongings were searched and it was proved she had no gun, and others testified that she had never threatened her husband and was afraid of him.
As Margaret sat on Devery's porch doctors and an ambulance were summoned, but the physicians decided that their patient would bleed to death if driven to the hospital so she was taken to a nearby house and given opiates to ease the terrible pain. It first appeared that she would die within hours, but by that evening she had rallied and it was briefly thought she might survive. However, she continued to weaken and, after careful examination, the doctors determined that the wound was a mortal one and it was just a matter of time until Margaret died. Margaret was conscious and, though she gave an ante-mortem statement naming her husband as her murderer, she would not comment on any particular reason or motive. Margaret lingered until September 23 when, a few minutes before 1:00 a.m., she died. Richard was asleep at the jail and was not aroused, but when he awoke he was told of her death and he showed no emotion, asking only if he could see the body before interment. Margaret Quinn was buried the following day, but Richard was not permitted to attend.
Richard Quinn was indicted in early December and his trial began in Judge W. W. Black's courtroom on December 14, 1908. His defense, that the shooting was accidental, was rejected by the jury and in two days was convicted of first degree murder. The prisoner was sentenced to hang but appeals automatically stayed the execution until the supreme court could hear the case. They finally denied the appeal and Quinn was resentenced to hang on April 15, 1910. Efforts were then made to gain a commutation of the death sentence, or at least a reprieve, and Quinn's sister, Mrs. Bert Mason who lived in Everett, managed to get a twenty-eight day reprieve from Governor M. E Hay while the case was taken under consideration. Quinn's sister worked night and day until, at seven o'clock on the evening of May 12, the Governor denied the application even though she had submitted petitions signed by five hundred residents of Everett, including eleven of the twelve jurors who found her brother guilty.
Richard had been delivered to the prison at Walla Walla to await the date of his execution. He was registered as prisoner 5661 and lodged in the east wing of the cell block. During the days he was at the prison he was encouraged to confess and repent by Fathers John LeCornu, the prison chaplain, and Father Jones of the Walla Walla Catholic Church, but he resisted all efforts at religious counseling. The prisoner had, at one time, been a Baptist and a number of clergymen tried to gain access to give religious advice, but he refused them admittance and was rude and insulting to any clergy who came near. After word was received that the commutation had been denied it fell upon Captain of the Guard J. D. Smith to tell him the news, and he advised the condemned man to "prepare for death with the break of day." Quinn paled at the news and seemed nervous. After Father LeCornu made his final plea the priest reported, "That man will go to his death this morning refusing to embrace any salvation. When I talked with him he thinks he will ‘die game.'"
Quinn had braced for the ordeal but had great difficulty sleeping that last night. The evening before his death, after the prisoners were locked in their cells, the parts of the gallows were brought from storage and erected in the prison yard, using carriage bolts and screws so no sound of a hammer could be heard. On the fatal day the prisoner was awakened at an early hour and he ate a hearty breakfast before dressing in his black burial suit. Before 5:00 a.m. superintendent C. S. Reed arrived at his cell and read the death warrant, and then the procession formed. Quinn was escorted to the gallows by prison guards and persistent clergymen, and faltered only slightly as he rounded the corner of the hospital building and saw the gallows for the first time. He climbed the thirteen stairs with a steady gait and, once upon the platform, stepped to the forward railing. He looked over the small crowd of witnesses – mostly physicians, prison officials, and newspaper reporters – and made a brief speech in which he protested his innocence, still claiming that the shooting of his wife was an accident. When he concluded he stepped backward onto the trapdoor where his wrists and arms, knees and ankles were strapped securely. The black cap was pulled on and the noose adjusted and, in but a moment, the lever was pulled and the trap was sprung. Quinn dropped straight down but the drop failed to break his neck because the cords in the back of his neck were abnormally large, and he was slowly choking to death. His legs were twitching and he managed to loosen the straps on his arms and dropped them to the ground. Gasping for breath, he begged the officials "This is awful, boys. For God's sake, take me up and drop me again, boys." Quinn struggled for some time as his speech became increasingly garbled and inarticulate, and finally he swung lifeless. Prison Dr. L. R. Quilliam was in attendance and he monitored vital signs for twenty-two and one half minutes before allowing the body to be cut down and placed in a coffin. The remains were turned over to his sister for burial.
Prison officials warned the newspaper reporters that publication of the horrible details would result in prosecution of the public morals law. Newspapers which "printed the sickening details of the execution" violated a section of Oregon's criminal code which expressly forbid the publication of such matters, and the offense was punishable by "a fine of not more than $100." On May 19, 1910 the Spokane Daily Chronicle announced that W. D. Dodd, the editor of the Bellingham Herald, had been arrested on an information filed directly with the superior court charging a violation of the public morals statute forbidding the publication of the story of Richard Quinn's execution. Dodd asked for a speedy trial and was scheduled to appear on May 21. The article in the Walla Walla Union had been watered down, leaving out all the gruesome details of the botched execution, and even showing the place where the word "not" had been removed from the text regarding the neck failing to break.
Everett Herald [WA]: September 23-24, 1908. Everett Morning Tribune [WA]: September 19, 1908; September 23, 1908; May 13-14, 1910. Morning Union [Walla Walla, WA]: May 13, 1910. Spokane Daily Chronicle [WA]: May 19, 1910.
Created by: Arthur Allen "Art" Moore...
Record added: Feb 16, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 85069703