Saturday, August 3, 2019

Ebenezer Stanyard.

Ebenezer Stanyard and Alice Hancock (sometimes spelled “Hancox”) were next-door neighbors in Youngstown, Ohio. Both of their families had emigrated from England and Ebenezer, and Alice had been playmates from an early age. But by 1887, when Alice turned 17, their paths had diverged. Alice, a pretty, petite brunette, was bright and popular, while Ebenezer, who could barely read and write, was considered weak-minded. Alice had moved on to more congenial company, but Ebenezer had become obsessively in love with her.

When Alice refused Ebenezer’s advances, he became more determined to have her. He was often loitering around her house, and her brother had caught Ebenezer peeking through her window. After that, the Hancock family kept their doors locked out of fear that Ebenezer might enter and commit assault. Reportedly, Ebenezer had asserted that Miss Hancock would not live to marry anyone else.

The night of March 25, 1887, Wilbur Knox, a 20-year-old mechanic, came to call on Alice. They had planned to walk together to the home of Alice’s sister. As Wilbur approached her door, he saw Ebenezer skulking around the house and said to him, “Eber, you ought to be ashamed of yourself in frightening this poor girl.” Ebenezer uttered a threat and walked away.

When Wilbur and Alice left her house, they saw no sign of Ebenezer, but as they passed his house, Ebenezer jumped up from behind the gate holding a five-shot revolver. He fired twice, hitting nothing, but he held the pistol so close that the powder burned their faces. The third shot hit Wilbur in the right hand, severing his index finger. The fourth shot shattered Alice’s left arm. Then he placed the revolver against Alice’s right temple and fired the shot that killed her.

Ebenezer fled, and Wilbur chased after him. When Wilbur caught him, a struggle ensued, and Ebenezer managed to escape by beating Wilbur’s head with the empty revolver. Ebenezer managed to elude capture until the next morning when the police found him and took him to jail.

Ebenezer Stanyard was charged with first-degree murder, and when the case went to trial the following May, his plea was insanity. In addition to testimony regarding his behavior, Ebenezer’s mother provided documents from England proving that the sister of Ebenezer’s grandfather and the brother of his grandmother were both insane. The jury was not impressed; they took just two and a half hours to find him guilty. He was sentenced to hang on November 25. 

Stanyard’s attorneys filed an appeal on the grounds that two witnesses had been asked about Stanyard’s sanity without stating any facts on which they based their opinion, and the judge had not properly instructed the jury regarding insanity. Just four days before the scheduled hanging, he was granted a new trial. Stanyard told the guard that he did not intend to hang and would have committed suicide if the new trial had not been granted. The guards searched him and found an iron table knife, pointed and sharpened on both sides, hanging on a string around his neck. 

The defense’s request for a change of venue for the new trial was not granted, and the court had difficulty filling a jury in Youngstown with men who had not already made up their minds on the case. When the trial finally began Stanyard again pled insanity and for the entire three weeks of testimony kept his head bowed expressing no interest in the proceedings or evidence. Regarding Stanyard’s insanity, the Cleveland Leader said, “If he is acting a part he has studied it well, as his attitude each day is the same.” However, Ebenezer Stanyard was found guilty a second time and sentenced to hang on July 13, 1888, and this time his request for a new trial was refused. 

Before ascending the scaffold on July 13, Ebenezer Stanyard played “Listen to the Mocking Bird” on the accordion. On the scaffold, he began a rambling speech protesting his innocence that continued as the black hood was placed over his head. He was still talking when the trap was sprung at 1:15. He died 18 minutes later.

“Death On The Scaffold,” Plain Dealer, July 13, 1888.
“Didn't Intend to Hang,” Stark County Democrat, November 17, 1887.
“Killed by an Idiotic Suitor,” Repository, March 25, 1887.
“Killed by Her Lover,” Cleveland Leader, March 25, 1887.
“A Murderer to be Hanged,” Springfield daily republic, March 22, 1888.
“New Trial fro Stanyard,” Cleveland Weekly Plain Dealer, November 18, 1887.
“No Change of Venue for Stanyard,” Cleveland Weekly Plain Dealer, December 16, 1887.
“Probable Difficulty in Getting a jury for Stanyard,” Repository, January 21, 1888.
“Stanyard Guilty,” Cincinnati Post, June 9, 1887.
“The Stanyard Murer Trial,” Plain Dealer, May 25, 1887.
“Stanyard on Trial,” Cleveland Leader, January 24, 1888.
“Youngstown,” Cleveland Leader, May 23, 1887.
“Youngstown,” Cleveland Leader, February 13, 1888.


Unknown says:
August 8, 2019 at 12:30 AM

This murderer is now in the Outer Darkness, awaiting the Day of Judgment, and then Hell.

Graham Clayton says:
September 13, 2019 at 5:24 AM

"Before ascending the scaffold on July 13, Ebenezer Stanyard played “Listen to the Mocking Bird” on the accordion."

That is one of the more unusual last acts that I have seen someone do just before they are executed.

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