SUGAR CREEK 1950
discovered this long forgotten story a couple of years ago while
researching another topic. I read the entire case and thought it
fascinating, but didnt think it entirely useful for the website.
But month after month the story kept returning to my mind like
the scene from an old movie....and so this is the story of two men:
One a little dim, while the other, on the wrong end of life at
the wrong time. Typically it's alcohol and drugs that cause
otherwise average guys to become candidates for the electric
chair, and this was no exception. The difference here....
was the road from Summers Street to the Sugar Creek....|
Imagine... 150 onlookers by the time the police arrived
SO THE CASE GOES TO TRIAL AND BOTH MEN ARE FOUND GUILTY.
( mostly due to 150 eye witnesses )
Article written by James A. Hill
MORE ON THE BAPTISM
Notice the reference to "Elk Two Mile." That should have been "Kanawha Two Mile".Article written by James A. Hill
Rt 21 just around the corner from West Washington Street.
March 26, 1951, twenty-six-year-old Harry Atlee Burdette and
thirty-two-year-old Fred Clifford Painter became the first men to be
executed in the penitentiary's electric chair. Both were convicted of
the first degree murder of soft drink salesman Edward C. O'Brien. The
two allegedly stomped O'Brien to death in a Summers Street parking lot
in Charleston around midnight on July 30, 1949. Burdette's attorneys,
former Charleston mayor D. Boone Dawson and D. L. Salisbury, argued
their client had been too intoxicated to have premeditated the murder.
Burdette testified that he and Painter had consumed 4 1/2 pints of
whiskey and nearly a case of beer since 11:00 on the morning of the
incident. Burdette added that he had blacked out the moment the
altercation began and came to in jail the next day. Apparently,
Burdette and Painter had attacked O'Brien to steal a fifth of wine.
Salisbury argued during Painter's trial that his client was legally
insane, due to cerebral syphilis, and that he was under the influence
of alcohol and drugs. In both trials, the juries quickly returned
guilty verdicts against the defendants.|
electrocution was scheduled for April 1950, and Painter's was set for
the following June. Unsuccessful appeals delayed the executions and
Warden Orel J. Skeen set a March 23, 1951 date for both. Shortly after
their convictions, Burdette and Painter were baptized in a creek near
Charleston, and with March 23 being Good Friday, Governor Okey Patteson
stayed the executions until the following Monday. A third man, Robert
Ballard Bailey, was also to be put to death on that day for the murder
of Charleston tavern keeper Rosina Fazio, the mother of Charleston
restauranteur Joe Fazio. On March 22, Patteson commuted Bailey's death
sentence to life imprisonment.
Due to the publicity surrounding
the state's first use of the electric chair, Warden Skeen departed from
tradition and granted reporters interviews with the convicted men one
hour before the execution. After a last meal, Burdette was strapped
into the chair at 9:02 p.m. Following one electric shock, Dr. Charles
A. Zeller pronounced him dead after a period of three minutes and
forty-eight seconds. Guards placed Painter in the chair at 9:10. The
first surge merely knocked him unconscious, requiring another jolt. At
9:19, Painter was pronounced dead. Three separate buttons had been
pushed by prison employees, although only one conveyed current, so
nobody would know who had delivered the fatal shock. Attending the
execution were former Delegate Schupbach and state Senator Robert C.
Byrd. As a sidelight, during the commotion on the day of the
executions, two prisoners escaped from the penitentiary.
All photos and articles courtesy of The Charleston Gazette and Life Magazine
See Painters Obit HERE
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