Executions · Famous Last Words · Washington DC

FLW: electricity in his head

Famous Last Words
Benjamin Snell
Washington, DC
June 29, 1900

“Oh, I’ll smother with that on. I’ve got electricity in my head now.”

Benjamin Snell stood at 6’6″ and weighed in at over 300 lbs. He had been convicted of killing Lizzie Weisenberger, a 13-year-old neighbor whom he had hired as a live-in friend for his own daughter. Lizzie lived with Snell for five years before she begged her mother to let her come home, stating Snell had made unwanted advances on her and “ruined” her.

In the early morning of August 6, 1899, Snell gained entry into the Weisenberger house under the false pretense of wishing for some water. Once inside, he pushed past Mrs. Weisenberger, made his way to the 13-year-old’s room, pulled her up by the hair, and sliced her throat with a straight razor, nearly decapitating her.

Snell tried to claim insanity, citing a head injury leading to epilepsy which he described as electricity in his head. He also claimed insanity ran in his family and suggested that, because his parents were cousins, he was predisposed to some sort of mental problems.

He was found guilty and sentenced to hang for his crimes. As the noose was placed over his head, he quipped “oh, I’ll smother with that on. I’ve got electricity in my head now.” Because he was a hefty man, his hanging was botched. Snell was nearly decapitated, his body dangling from the muscles at the back of his neck.

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