Executions · Famous Last Words · New Mexico

The only man executed for train robbery

April 26, 1901
Clayton, New Mexico territory
Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum is hanged for train robbery, the only person executed for this crime

Ketchum admitted he modeled his style after the infamous criminal Black Jack, but claimed he was not the real one. When he was sentenced to hang, he reinforced his innocence of the crimes the real Black Jack had committed and begged President McKinley for mercy as the crime he actually did commit, train robbery, does not carry a sentence of capital punishment. His pleas went unheard.

When it was time to hang, his final words were “Goodbye. Please dig my grave very deep. Let her go!” His execution was botched, however; he had gained a substantial amount of weight while in jail and his rope was too long. Subsequently, as Ketchum fell from the trap door he was decapitated. His body was presented for viewing post-mortem, a standard practice at the time for executed criminals, though his head was sewn back onto his body for public viewing.

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