“Please Daddy, I want to come home this morning”
William Edward Hickman, the first ransom kidnapper in the United States to be executed, needed $1,500 to pay tuition fees at a school of divinity. He decided that kidnapping could raise the funds. He went to Mount Vernon Junior High School and told the headmaster that Californian banker Perry Parker was ill and he was there to collect his 12-year-old daughter, Marian.
The next day Hickman sent a ransom demand via telegram of $1,500 in $20 gold certificates, signing himself The Fox. The kidnapper said that he would telephone with instructions but never did. Another ransom note arrived, “[You] gave me your word of hono[u]r… not to tip the police… you lied… you are insane to ignore my terms.”
It also included a note from Marian, “Please Daddy, I want to come home this morning. This is your last chance… come by yourself or you won’t see me again.” Another meeting was arranged at Manhattan Place Car Park, at 5th Avenue and South Manhattan Street in Los Angeles for 19 December and Mr Parker dropped off the ransom to a softly spoken man who had Marian next to him in the car.
Hickman drove up the street and pushed Marion out of the car. When her father ran to pick up his daughter, he found that Hickman had strangled the girl after which he had rouged her cheeks, cut off her arms and legs, slashed her body, removed her internal organs and wired her eyelids open. The missing legs and arms were discovered in Elysian Park, Los Angeles. They were wrapped in a towel, which had a laundry mark that led police to a young man called Evans.
He turned out to be Hickman and had a record for forgery, received while working for Marian’s father who’m he blamed for his downfall. Hickman escaped and fled to Washington and then Oregon but was finally captured at Pendleton, Oregon on 22 December. He was one of the first criminals to claim that he had been insane at the time of the crime. He told warders, “I always wanted to cut up a body. I used a pocket-knife, then drained each piece and washed them in the bathtub… then I went out to the cinema… I didn’t’like the pictures, they were too sad and made me cry.”
Mount Vernon Junior High School, 4066 West 17th Street, Los Angeles, California, USA
Thursday 15 December 1927
Found guilty of murder after the court rejected the possibility he might be insane, Hickman’s hanging at San Quentin Prison at 10.10am on 19 October 1928 was a terrifying spectacle that caused three of the witnesses to faint. Hickman fainted as the trap door was opened, causing him to fall horizontally banging his head on the side of the scaffold. At the end of the drop his body jerked straight and began to circle in a hideous death spiral. He slowly strangled to death, his hands twitching all the time.