January 10, 1936
Neal Bowman is executed for murdering his 17-year-old robbery accomplice
Bowman had been involved in a robbery gang in Kentucky after escaping from an Ohio “prison for the criminal insane.” One of his gang mates was Comer Franklin, a 17-year-old who apparently wanted to leave his criminal life behind. Fearing Franklin would “squeal,” he was shot in the back of his head, a 30-pound rock tied to his back with wire, and thrown into a lake.
Franklin’s decomposing and “bullet-torn body” was pulled from Herrington Lake near Danville, Kentucky by a Navy dive team in April 1934. Several people were arrested for Franklin’s death, including his older brother. The suspect pool quickly narrowed to Bowman, however, and the others were released.
At trial, Bowman admitted to throwing Franklin’s body in the water but blamed fellow robber Stanley Mercer for his murder. Mercer — who was in prison for the murder of a store clerk killed during a robbery which Bowman was also involved in — in turn placed blame for Franklin’s murder on Bowman. The jury did not believe Bowman’s accounts and convicted him of murder after deliberating for two hours.
Bowman told reporters “I am being crucified to satisfy the sadistic longings of various bankers in Ohio.” He also compared himself to Jean Valjean from Les Misérables and to Jesus Christ, stating he was meant to die “for something he didn’t do.”
Bowman was electrocuted shortly after midnight. He made no final statement.
Clipping: The Cincinnati Enquirer. January 10, 1936
“The End of the Trail.” Interior Journal [Stanford, Kentucky]. January 14, 1936
“Neal Bowman Goes to His Death Calmly.” Belvidere Daily Republican. January 10, 1936
“Bowman Meets Death In Chair At Eddyville For Franklin Slaying.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. January 10, 1936
“Slayer Of Pal Dies Tonight.” The Daily Chronicle [DeKalb, Illinois]. January 9, 1936
“Neal Bowman Makes Dramatic Plea Before Jury Takes Case.” Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro, Kentucky]. May 24, 1934
“Body Of Slain Boy Found At Bottom Of Lake.” The Owensboro Messenger. April 13, 1934