December 6, 1927
Velma West (21) bludgeons her husband Thomas Edward West (25) to death with a hammer and table leg when he refuses to allow her to leave for a bridge party
Velma was small in stature at 5’5” (165cm) and 107lbs. (48.5kg) while Thomas was around 6 feet tall (183cm) and just under 200lbs. (90.7kg). At the time of his murder, Thomas was neither inebriated nor sleeping, yet Velma was somehow able to beat him to death. Velma claimed, after her arrest, that she had planned to attend a bridge party in Cleveland but Thomas told her to stay home. He struck her and in retaliation Velma picked up a claw hammer resting nearby and beat Thomas about the head. Thomas attempted to get up four separate times until Velma knocked him unconscious and used wrapping cord to tie his wrists and ankles. Thomas regained consciousness and rolled into his back, whereupon Velma hit his face and head again repeatedly with the hammer and a table leg until he died. In all, Thomas was hit at least ten times; eight of the wounds were fatal on their own.
After the murder, Velma covered her husband’s body with a quilt, left the home to attend the bridge party as planned, and spent the next day Christmas shopping for her dead husband. She was arrested at her mother’s house and, despite providing an alibi, later confessed to the murder.
Thomas West’s body
Velma pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1928, receiving an automatic life sentence. In 1939, Velma and three other women escaped the reformatory in which they were incarcerated. Velma left a four-page letter apologizing to the reformatory supervisor for the escape and mentioned she needed “one last fling” before she died; her fling lasted 40 days. She died of natural causes at the age of 53 on October 10, 1959.
- “Velma West’s Last Days Spent In Music, Prayer.” The Akron Beacon Journal [Akron, Ohio]. October 25, 1959
- “Velma West Dies In Prison At Age of 53.” The Daily Reporter [Dover, Ohio]. October 24, 1959
- “Wife Who Slew Husband, Escaped Prison, Caught After ‘Last Fling’.” Oakland Tribune [Oakland, California]. July 26, 1939
- “Pleaded Guilty to Murder in Second Degree.” News-Journal [Mansfield, Ohio]. March 6, 1928
- Marshall, Marguerite Mooers. “Hammer Murderer Is Careless of Future.” The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky]. December 11, 1927