California

Detective photographed with mask worn by gang members

May 6, 1953
California
An LAPD detective models a mask worn by the Baxter Shorter crew

The crew consisted of Baxter Shorter, Emmett Perkins, Jack Santo, and Barbara Graham. On March 8, 1953, the gang murdered Mabel Monohan, an elderly woman. Shorter, the safe cracker, was called into the house after the rest had gained entry. Inside, Shorter saw Monohan bleeding and gagged on the floor. Despite the fact that Shorter was a criminal, he wanted no part in murder.

While the others ransacked the house for a non-existent stash of money, rumored to be over $100,000, Shorter grabbed a utility bill to later call an ambulance for the woman. When Shorter told Santo his plan, Santo responded “I don’t give a damn what you do. That woman stopped breathing before we left.”

Shorter did call an anonymous tip in but failed to tell the operator the address was in Burbank. Responders had been sent to an address that did not exist, assuming the caller had meant Los Angeles instead. Monohan’s body was found 2 days later.

Shorter gave a statement to police regarding the murder and robbery, the details of which were somehow leaked. When the rest of the gang heard of Shorter’s plan to squeal, Shorter mysteriously disappeared. A mask, the one worn by the detective in the picture, was left at Shorter’s sister’s house after his kidnapping. His body was never found.

Despite the lack of testimony by Shorter, Perkins, Santo, and Graham were found guilty and executed on June 3, 1955. Graham was scheduled to be executed at 10 am, though she received a temporary stay of execution until 11:30 am, to which she lamented “Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o’clock.” Her last words were “Good people are always so sure they’re right,” though when advised to take deep breaths to minimize the suffering of the cyanide in the gas chamber she replied “How the hell would you know?”

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