California · Executions · Famous Last Words

FLW: Make it snappy

Famous Last Words
Charles H. Simpson
San Quentin, California o
July 17, 1931

“Make it snappy, boys.”

18-year-old Simpson, nicknamed the “torch slayer” by the newspapers, was executed for the February 16, 1931 robbery and murder of an elderly family friend. Albina Voorhies ran a shop and had locked up for the night, which Simpson took as a sign of a good mark. He knocked and Voorhies opened the door for him when he lied about wanting cookies.

While her back was turned, Simpson clubbed Voorhies over the head. The first strike only stunned her, knocking her false teeth out, and she attempted to flee. Simpson chased after her, clubbing her again, this time rendering her unconscious. He tied her to a chair, poured coal oil over her, and lit her on fire.

Voorhies regained consciousness and began screaming. She was struck several more times until she was finally killed. Simpson then stole the only money he could find in the shop, $3 in the register, before fleeing the scene.

Believing he was too young to be hanged, Simpson was quoted in the Oakland Tribune (Feb. 20, 1931) as saying “I am under 21 and they can’t hang me. I expect to be sent to the big house, but my family has a lot of pull and I ought to get out on parole before very long.” He changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, hoping for mercy from the court, which was denied. On April 20, 1931, Simpson was sentenced to hang. The sentence was carried out less than 3 months later.

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