California · Executions · Newspaper clippings

Man executed for the murder of his elderly common-law wife following an argument

May 24, 1935
Folsom, California
Tully McQuate is hanged for murder of an elderly widow

McQuate (44) had been living with Ellen Straw (74) — who according to the Medford Mail Tribune (May 26, 1935) was his common-law-wife — for about a year before her murder. Shortly before her murder, she had become somewhat jealous and tensions between the couple had been high. After another argument, the two went to their respective rooms but Straw continued to yell. McQuate, hearing everything through the walls, went to get a drink. At this time, he noticed a claw hammer he had used to fix things around the house.

McQuate went into Straw’s room and struck Straw 6 or 7 times, then left her body for 6 days. He eventually decided to dispose of the body by stuffing it into a sack and dumping it into the bay. When he could not fit her body easily in the sack, he took a knife and saw, dismembered her, stuffed her remains in the bag, then dumped it.

McQuate was questioned about an unrelated issue, being found in the possession of a handmade blackjack (a flexible club, in McQuate’s case a rubber hose filled with buckshot). He immediately confessed to Straw’s murder and insisted he would plead guilty, not wishing to use taxpayer’s money on a trial for which he freely admitted his guilt. He also attempted to represent himself, but the law required those being tried for murder have an attorney. Additionally, murder trials required at least two days which McQuate was discontented with, saying “It’s so foolish. I did it; let ‘em sentence me and get it over with. If I hang, I hang.”

McQuate requested he be allowed to climb the steps to the gallows unescorted, which was granted.

The entire LA Times article of the one pictured can be read here.

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