Crime all the Time

By Katie Koth


First of all, the name “Baby Face Nelson” certainly does not sound like a cold hard criminal. I couldn’t help but laugh when I first read his name. Couldn’t he be more menacing in his choice of name?

This guy is tough. No matter how many times the police would put him behind bars, he would escape. He’s not your average criminal. Eventually, he grew tired of the cops, and actually began killing them too. Talk about a bad boy.

Reading about all of these prison escapes makes me think about this in a different way. Society often considers criminals to be dumb and insane. But if these men can escape prison multiple times, then it must mean two things: either they are smarter than we give them credit for, or there is something seriously wrong with the law enforcement system.


In the comic Torse, we read the exciting story about a murderer that leaves the only the torsos of his victims. At first, I was very confused as to why he did this. Clearly, it is insane to be a chain murderer in the first place. But chopping off the heads and limbs of your victims seems like a whole other level of crazy. Then, I realized the opposite of what I thought in the first place. The murderer was actually a genius. Back in those days, it was extremely difficult to identify the body if there is no face or fingerprints to go off of. Therefore, it would be even harder to identify the man who killed the body. Genius!

This is probably the most graphic comic I”ve ever read. Not only were the heads and limbs removed from the bodies, but all the blood was drained from them as well. Furthermore, the genital area of one of the bodies was also removed, making the suspicion of a sex crime a possibility.

I found the comic style of this book to be a little challenging to read. While it was entertaining, there were a lot of details in each picture, and I sometimes missed an important detail and had to go back and read it over again.


First of all, I love and hate the poem form of these ballads. I love it because I’m partial to poetry and it is a new and creative way to describe these crimes. However, it portrays the crimes as light and fluffy, rather than dark and dirty, as some of them are. So it gives me mixed feelings.
I also want to applaud the authors of these ballad poems for how well structured they are. They all seem to include so much detail about the crimes and the people in them, and they manage to do this while rhyming!!! For example, in the Murder at Fall River, we learn the year and the month in which the murder took place. We also learn about Lizzie, the suspect of the murder who was set free. The author was able to tell a detailed story and still make it sound very poetic. Bravo for that.
My favorite of the ballads we read was definitely Bonnie and Clyde. Everyone should know the classic story of the Barrow gang. The two went around stealing everything, and murdering those who told on them. Their entire story is thrilling, and the poem just makes it better.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Talk about dramatic. The Ballad of Fred and Allie is such a crazy story. Fred and Alice met in grade school and began to fall in love as their friendship grew older. The idea of same sex couples was highly frowned upon in 1891, and it’s interesting to see the mother’s response to the two girl’s relationship. The text says that whenever they observed their friendship becoming too much, it was tolerated and ignored. This is interesting. It seems to imply that back then, a lesbian love wasn’t even thought of as a possibility. When the mother found the engagement ring, however, all hell broke lose. The ring was returned to Alice, who realized that they could never be together on this earth. This became her motive for the murder. She eventually ended up slitting Fred’s throat, thinking that she would kill herself right after. Then the two of them could live happily together in the afterlife. However, Alice was unable to kill herself after because she was apprehended by Fred’s family.
Was that her plan all along though? It says in the text that Fred began to flirt with other boys and wrote about them in her letters. Alice always seemed to be more interested in their relationship than Fred was, despite her claim otherwise. Also, when Fred visited, they did not speak, which probably aggravated Alice a great deal. Perhaps the murder was not so the two could be together later. Perhaps she was driven by the rejection of the engagement, and acted rashly based on her emotions.
Either way, Alice was considered mentally insane after the murder. However, the love Alice had for Fred was considered more inappropriate than the murder. This highlights how much society hated same sex love in the late 1800s. This to me seems so ridiculous, and makes me angry. In no society should same sex love be worse than a murder. Even gay haters these days would admit to this. This idea seems crazy to me.

Crime in Government.

There is A LOT of corruption in the government. These two readings highlight this point. Throughout this course, we have mainly focused on terrible crimes such as murders, rapes, and robberies. But by studying all of these crimes, we seem to forget about other crimes, such as the ones that go on in the government. Maybe the people in the Ames story forgot about government crime too, since they kept giving him another chance in the mayor’s office. This article really did not sit well with me. Throwing your wife off a balcony? Not cool. People in authority really should step up and set a good example.
The comic was light-hearted and great. We learned about the Ohio Gang, who was present during the Harding administration. This comic proves that you shouldn’t trust everyone. The Ohio Gang was smuggling money right under people’s noses. It caused many suicides and depression, and the entire situation did not end well for anyone. However, I prefer this ending over the ending in the Minnesota Legal History story.

Pay attention to Detail

My favorite reading of the three assigned was by far Ambrose Bierce. Right off the bat, it gets you thinking!
The first part of the reading submerges you into a world where murder is ok, and mutilation, even better. The author uses vivid adjectives and verbs to describe the standards of their society, which is part of what makes this reading more captivating. He describes the smell of blood to be appetizing, and the sight of reeking corpses to be exhilarating. Talk about a twisted world.
But the descriptions don’t stop in that section. Later in the reading, a man was found dead. The author describes what the deceased was doing two hours before his untimely death. Not only does it captivate the reader, but it kind of tugs at your heartstrings a little knowing the man was relaxing and enjoying his pipe just a few hours before his death.
The detail in this reading also can be humorous. If the reading had just stated that Senor Felipe Carillo had murdered his mother, we would have just accepted it and moved on. But the fact that it stated the murder weapon, which in fact was a pumpkin pie, is fantastic.
All in all, I wish more readings had as much detail as this one did. Detail makes a difference.


I know we had a lot more reading than what this blog will discuss, but I felt compelled to write about the small notes that Richard Barrack left to his family and friends.
Throughout this course so far, we have read multiple stories about thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. Each one of the criminals we have discussed was put to death. Often when we hear about these executions frequently, we become numb to the fact that they are actually happening. We begin to lose compassion for the criminal, and we treat each execution story the same.
When I was reading the story of Richard Barrack, I had the same response that I normally have while doing my true crime homework. He was a thief who stole from many people. He then confessed, and is getting what he deserves. However, after his confession, he writes to his father and mother, his friends and neighbors, and his wife. This is what really hit me. Even though he used a majority of his life for evil, he is still a person waiting to die. He has a wife who loves him, and a mother and father who raised him. These short letters made me step back and evaluate the situation once more. Each of these criminals is just like us, with family and friends that love us. These notes that Barrack wrote made this whole idea of execution real for me. These criminals are dying, for stupid crimes that they committed when they were young. Their families will never get them back, and that’s not something to be passive about, despite how much we talk about it in this class.

Going with the Crowd

In “The Vial poured out on the Sea”, the reader hears a true tale of thieving and murderous pirates. These pirates spend their lives living in crime, stealing and killing as they sailed the oceans. However, their crimes eventually caught up to them, and they were executed for their misdoings.

It was a typical execution. The spectacle took place in public, and the pirates had the opportunity to confess their sins. Two of them took full advantage of the opportunity, even praying to God that the people watching would learn from the mistakes they made. However, one pirate refused to do so. Then, they were executed in front of the crowd.

In the article about Joseph Mountain, we hear a story about a man who took part in a life of thieving. He met two musicians in London who robbed many citizens at night. These two men found Mountain worthy of the thieving life, and that’s when things went downhill. Eventually, Mountain joined a gang of highway men, and was eventually caught, convicted, and put to death.

It intrigues me that in these two stories, there were three pirates, and three robbers. All of the pirates committed the same crimes the same way, just as all of the robbers committed the same crimes the same way. Maybe the people you choose to surround yourself with is a bigger decision than we realize.

We then hear about Thomas Powers, a negro who, on his own, dedicated his life to stealing and raping women. He as well was caught and imprisoned, and was eventually killed.

All three stories involve thieving, and all the members involved in these stories were executed for their stealing sprees. In today’s society, however, stealing does not usually merit death, unless the object stolen is of great importance. Just an observation.

No Rest for the Tortured.

First of all, let me start off by saying OUCH. I cannot even begin to address the gruesome details in this reading. It’s not enough to just execute the patient. Instead, they burn his flesh, tie his limbs to horses, cut his flesh, and then burn the remains until they are ash. Talk about harsh.  Thank goodness public punishment began to decrease in the 1800s.

In chapter one, the rules that Leon Faucher creates for criminals are listed. I find this “schedule” very interesting. For example, the criminals go to a class and practice their reading, writing, and arithmetic. Shortly after, however, they are executed. The whole schedule itself does not seem harsh at all. So what is the point of this day where they are fed and taught, if they are just going to be executed moments later?

Reading about the torture that used to take place in the 1700s evokes many questions. In chapter 2, it is explained that it is perfectly acceptable to “torture” the criminal as long as it follows the guidelines that are set by the specific country that they are in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that watching someone be tortured for a crime will certainly ensure that you won’t do the same one.  However, I guess I’m still curious as to why such harsh measures were used for these people. It almost seems boarder-line sick. In fact, many of these people are being tortured for murder. So why is it ok for their executioners to burn their skin and tie their limbs to horses? The punishment seems so much worse than the crime.

As for the confession of Levi Ames, I don’t have much to address. His confession seems sincere.  He gave up his hopes of escaping from prison when he found salvation.  He knew why he was going to die, and accepted it in his heart. Not much to say there.

No Way Out

When reading about Esther Rodgers and Patience Boston, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for them.  I know that feeling empathy towards criminals isn’t exactly a normal response, but there’s something about these two women that makes me think a little bit.

Both women, though raised in religions families, rebelled in their younger years and became pregnant. Obviously, both Rodgers and Boston panicked, fearing that they were not ready to raise a child.  They both took matters into their own hands, and murdered the infants after they were born.  As a result, both women were convicted and sentenced to death.  However, they both confessed to the crime and repented of their sins.

Obviously, killing infants is not something that we should be doing. However, it is important to understand the circumstances before judging these women too harshly.  Murder is a very serious thing, and I believe they should be punished for their actions.  But perhaps these women thought there was no way out.  Both situations happened when birth control was not an option. Both women were young and naive, and unsure what to do. Therefore, killing the child to solve their problems seemed like the only way to go on with their lives.  Now, I’m not trying to advocate for abortion or prove any political point. I think murder is serious, I just can understand the emotions behind both situations. I don’t believe either woman is a cold blooded killer, I just think they were desperate for a way out.