Joseph Chester Self

Photo added by Arthur Allen Moore III

Joseph Chester Self

  • Birth 1931 Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, USA
  • Death 20 Jun 1963 Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington, USA
  • Burial Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington, USA
  • Plot WALLA-CA-4-38-20
  • Memorial ID 53537647

Joseph C. Self murders Seattle cabdriver Ralph A. Gemmill Jr. for $15.

On Wednesday, March 16, 1960, Joseph Chester Self, age 29, shoots and kills Seattle taxicab driver Ralph A. Gemmill Jr., age 39, during a $15 heist. After hiding in the Eatonville area for four days, Self surrenders to the Pierce County Sheriff, claiming the murder was unintentional. A trial jury, however, finds Self guilty of first-degree murder and imposes the death penalty. On June 20, 1963 at 12:05 a.m., Self is hanged at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. He is the 73rd prisoner to be executed in Washington state since 1904 and will be the last for 30 years, the longest period in state history without an execution.
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Joseph Chester Self (1931-1963), the youngest of four children and a native of Tacoma, had been in trouble most of his life. His mother, Mable, died when he was 7 years old and his father, Joseph, when he was 12. Left to fend for himself, young Joseph dropped out of school by age 15, got into trouble, and spent time at a camp for juvenile delinquents near Tacoma. While in custody, he was given the option of enlisting in the military and he joined the U.S. Army. After basic training, Self was assigned to a cavalry division and sent to occupied Japan. While serving there, he was disciplined several times for insolence, disobeying orders, and being AWOL (absent without leave).

Self was convicted of black marketeering in Japan and sentenced to serve two and one-half years in a military prison. But, after serving 15 months, he was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army and released. Thereafter, Self served three months on a prison farm near San Francisco for burglary, two years in the Oregon State Penitentiary at Salem for auto theft, and two years in the California State Penitentiary at San Quentin for burglary. He was paroled on June 20, 1959, and for several months worked on cattle ranch in Simms, Montana. Then on Monday, March 14, 1960, he bought a ticket to Seattle at the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Great Falls. Before leaving Great Falls, he purchased a .32-caliber, semiautomatic pistol with the intention of committing armed robberies.

Self arrived at the Greyhound Bus Terminal, 8th Avenue and Stewart Street, Seattle, on Wednesday afternoon, March 16, 1960, dead broke. He went to the baggage counter to claim his luggage and was told by the clerk that he owed $3.50 in shipping charges. Self said he didn't have the money, claiming he spent it all in Twin Falls, Idaho, getting drunk. He left the depot, returned at 6:00 p.m. with $4 and retrieved his belongings. Then Self went to the taxicab stand in front of the bus depot.

Source: HistoryLink


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  • Created by: Arthur Allen Moore III
  • Added: 10 Jun 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 53537647
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Chester Self (1931–20 Jun 1963), Find A Grave Memorial no. 53537647, citing Mountain View Cemetery, Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington, USA ; Maintained by Arthur Allen Moore III (contributor 46828136) .