October 29, 1890
Perry, Georgia
Thomas Woolfolk is hanged for the murder of his family

On August 6, 1887, Thomas ran to the home of Green Sockett, one of his neighbors, to report his family had been murdered. He’d barely escaped death himself, he claimed, when he was awoken by sounds of his father being beaten to death with an axe. Thomas’ younger brother, Richard Woolfolk Jr., then ran to his father’s aid. Thomas heard his body hit the floor and fled the home.

Local residents investigated the scene and found the bodies of eight Woolfolk family members, as well as a visiting friend. The dead were Captain Richard Woolfolk Sr., his wife Mattie, their children — Richard Jr., 20; Susan Pearl, 17; Annie, 10; Rosebud, 7; Charlie, 5; and Mattie, 18 months — and Temperance West (84).

Each victim had been “brained” by a wood axe, with each blow landing only on the victims’ heads or necks. The Indianapolis Journal reported: “Not a blow had been struck except on the head of the victims, and they lay in their night garments, where they had been struck down and the blood and brains from their crushed skulls had run out until the room was a sea of gore.”

The scene held only one set of bloody footprints not accounted for by the victims, later determined to belong to Thomas. He was examined during his questioning, at which point a bloody handprint was found on his leg. Additionally, the shirt he wore was too large for him. His shirt was later found discarded in a well, “blood-stained and clotted with human brains.” Based on this evidence, Thomas was convicted of his family’s murders and sentenced to hang. The suspected motive was hatred towards his step-mother and his half-siblings, and his desire to have sole possession of his father’s property.

Thomas was hanged publicly on October 29, 1890 in front of 10,000 spectators.

Beimfohr, Chelsea. “Largest mass murder in Ga. history still puzzling historians.” 13 WMAZ. February 14, 2018. Accessed: October 29, 2019. https://www.13wmaz.com/mobile/article/news/local/largest-mass-murder-in-ga-history-still-puzzling-historians/93-518425822
“Crime Without Parallel.” The Indianapolis Journal. October 30, 1890
“Horrible Beyond Belief.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat. August 7, 1887

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