February 22, 1848
Harriet Parker is hanged for the murder of her lover’s young children
Parker, a widow, had been living with her partner Robert Blake, who was still legally married to his wife with whom he was separated; two of his children from his wife also lived with the couple. Blake had been a notorious womanizer, doing little to conceal his dalliances. Parker had requested he stop this behavior, only to have Blake complain of her jealousy.
Parker discovered Blake once again with another woman, and spoke of having something “very black in mind.” To get back at her straying lover, she smothered his children (Amina, age 7, and Robert Jr., 5) in their sleep. When she turned herself in to police, the children’s bodies were still warm and she had dried blood on her clothing. However, the blood was her own from being hit by Blake the night before.
It took the jury only 10 minutes to convict her, though they asked for mercy on her behalf due to her circumstances. In fact, Blake was still bragging about the women he had been with while he and Parker were together. The judge, however, declined the pleas for mercy as the children had done nothing to deserve death.
During the days leading to her execution, she wrote to Blake “awful as my fate is, I would rather die than live again the wretched life I have done for the last twelve months.” She also sent him a Bible, a pair of cuffs she had knitted in jail, and suggested he go back to his wife and give up drinking and womanizing.