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Source: The New York Times Oct 17, 1885
Indianapolis, Oct 16 -- No such scene as was witnessed on the scaffold at Crawfordsville at noon today, probably ever was witnessed in this vicinity. Last January James McMullen and his wife were murdered in a most diabolical manner. John W. Coffee was arrested for the crime. During his incarceration he made three different confessions, one of which sought to throw the blame for the killing on James M. Dennis, a respected farmer. Dennis was arrested and convicted upon Coffee's testimony, together with a web of circumstantial evidence, skillfully woven around him. The two men were condemned to be hanged on the 3rd day of September. Dennis protested his innocence from the first. Before the day set for the execution Coffee made a third confession in which he implicated James Rankin, Monday Rankin, James M. Dennis and John Curtis. He declared that James Rankin did the killing with a navy revolver firing four shots. It was on the strength of this third confession that the Governor respited Coffee and Dennis until today.The Supreme Court afterward granted Dennis a new trial. James Rankin proved an unquestionable alibi. Dennis will probably be released from custody without an other trial. Coffee was hanged today. The streets were crowded with people from all parts of the county. The Sheriff had issued 200 invitations and about that number of spetators were admitted into the inclosure surround the gallows at 9 o'clock this morning. Coffee was utterly prostrated and refused to be consoled by his spiritual adviser. He had refused to eat any food since last night. His condition at that time was most pitiable. Dennis was removed to an adjoining county as a precaution against a possible mob. At 11 o'clcok Coffee having braced up somewhat in the meanwhile, made some additions to his third confession implicating others int he crime but his statements are not believed. When the time came for the execution he had a spasm and he had to be half carried to the scaffold. When the rope was placed around his neck he talked incoherently repeating his implication of others. When the drop fell the rope broke and the body dropped to the ground. The neck was not broken but blood oozed from the condemned man's ears. He was carried up on the scaffold and while the rope was being readjusted he recovered consciousness and begged to have the cap taken off that he might make another speech. This request was refused. When the drop again fell the rope broke a second time, but the body was caught before it fell to the ground. It was lifted up and held in the arms of Deputy Sheriff's while the rope was fixed for the third time. When the drop fell again the rope held and Coffee strangled to death in 12 minutes. The spectacle was sickening. The Governor said today that after investigating the case he had become satisfied that Coffee alone was guilty of the murder.
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Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the submitter, for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information.

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the copyright holder(s), for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information. © 2014 by Karen Zach, and licensed to the Indiana GenWeb (INGenWeb) Project and the USGenWeb Project. May be used in personal research with a citation.

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