Linda A Cowdrick
The Women Slayers
It is July in New York, 1889 and 3 men dubbed "The Three Women Slayers" are set to be hanged on August 23. They are Patrick Packenham, James Nolan and John Lewis.
Patrick Packenham, a painter, was born about 1831. He was described as "powerfully built" and "brutal looking." He was in and out of prison and drank heavily. When he drank he terrorized his wife and children. Patrick's son was Robert 'Robbie' Packenham who testified at the age of 16 against his father in the murder of his 36 year old mother, Margaret (a/k/a Maggie) in their tenement home located at 212 West 27th St on April 2. Robbie's father cut Margaret's throat from ear to ear with a razor. Prior to the murder Patrick had two quarts and a pint of beer. His young daughters, Cora and Alice, had been sent out of the house because of his awful behavior at that point. He threatened to throw his son out of the window. Patrick said his wife had a domineering look in her eye and leaped towards her with the razor. Robber jumped on his father's shoulder's and a friend, Dick Cook, who had come to the scene, struck Patrick in the face. However, it was too late. Maggie was dead. Prior to this incident, Patrick had completed a sentence in prison for abusing his wife. He was hanged at 6:55am on the Franklin Street scaffold. Cora and Alice were sent to the institute of the American Female Guardian Society. Patrick was hanged August 23, 1889 at 6:55am on the Franklin Street scaffold.
James Nolan, driver, born in 1863 to Irish immigrants Michael and Mary Nolan, had also been to prison prior to his 1889 conviction of murder is the 1st degree at the age of 26. He was sentenced to Sing Sing prison in 1881 for 4 years for larceny. He was sentenced again in 1884 to the New York Penitentiary for carrying burglar's tools, obviously with the intent of committing larceny again. In November, 1888, James shot his mistress, Emma Boch 5 times at 9 2nd St. Emma was taken to Bellevue Hospital but did not survive.
Belleview Hospital, 1878
However, Emma was able to identify him as her shooter before her death. Five years prior, Emma married James Boch, a merchant and James convinced her to leave her husband and be with him instead. She did but James became abusive and so she left him. James tried to get her back but in doing so he found her with another man. He left and returned with a revolver. He called for her and when she approached him, he shot her. James was described as having a small build but with "extraordinary long arms." One of his legs was shorter than the other. He had blotches on his face and said to have a "loathsome appearance." In response to the crime, James stated the following:
"I was drinking yesterday for the first time in three months. I remember going to the house and asking for Emma, but I don't recollect shooting her. I was mad, crazed with anger, anyhow, and I didn't know what I was doing. Look at my face," pointing to his sores; "look at that. That woman is responsible for that. She ruined my life. Still I thought a good deal of her."
He was hanged on August 23, 1889 at 6:55am with Packenham on the Franklin Street scaffold.
John Lewis, alias Black Jack, was born in 1862 in the South and was a waiter. John was sentenced to hang for the murder of Alice Jackson, whom he shot 5 or 6 times on July 17, 1888 at 84 W 3rd St where Alice worked as a cook. His reason? She was leaving him. They were married and for a while lived in the village of Sing Sing. John was described as a slim built man, a drunk and was very violent towards Alice. Prior to the murder, John had threatened Alice with a pistol and she went to the police. When the police arrived, they clubbed John. This did not deter John from trying again. He later showed up on July 17 and went into her kitchen where she was preparing breakfast. After he shot her several times, another servant, Susan Radcliffe, tried to help Alice but when John pointed the gun at her, she ran away. Alice worked her way into the street and under the elevated railroad said "Jack Lewis, you have murdered me." before dying immediately afterwards. John was hanged at 7:03am on the Leonard Street scaffold. It was said that of the 3 men executed on August 23, Lewis "died the hardest."
It is interesting to note that on January 1, 1889 a NY Law was passed that "the punishment of death must, in every case, be inflicted by passing through the body of the convict a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death." So was this law simply ignored that August when these 3 men were hanged? According to Correctionhistory.org, the last hanging in New York State was on December 6, 1889.