January 13, 1928
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Serial killer Earle Leonard Nelson, alias Virgil Wilson, is executed

Nelson primarily targeted landladies, posing as a prospective tenant to lure the victims to empty buildings. The women were strangled, and many raped after death. (One victim, 14-year-old Lola Cowen, was also seriously mutilated.)

Nelson’s success largely depended on his constant movement, though suspicion fell on him after he sold some of the victims’ property. When he realized he was close to being captured, he moved to Canada where he killed his final two victims: Lola Cowan and Emily Patterson. He once again sold the victims’ stolen property which led to his arrest.

Nelson was linked to the murders of at least 19 women and girls, as well as one infant male, with the murders stretching 7,000 miles from the United States to Canada. Despite the large number of victims, he was convicted for only one murder, that of his final victim, Emily Peterson who was strangled and raped before being stuffed under her child’s bed.

Although the police and the victims’ families hoped Nelson would confess to the other murders, he continued to state his innocence until his execution. His last words were: “I declare my innocence before God and Man. I forgive those who have harmed me, and I ask forgiveness from those whom I have harmed. May God have mercy on my soul. Amen.”

Nelson’s crimes were the inspiration of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Shadow of a Doubt.

Earle Nelson

Sources:
“Earle Nelson Pays With Life; Denies Guilt.” The Winnipeg Tribune. January 13, 1928
“Man Accused In 19 Slayings To Die On Gallows.” Arizona Republic [Phoenix, Arizona]. November 7, 1927
The Leader-Post [Regina, Canada]. June 20, 1927

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