February 17, 1905
Roy Green (17, pictured) is hanged for beating a man with a piece of wood then impaling his throat with a splinter from the broken lumber
James E. Coomes was killed on July 31, 1904. According to Green’s confession, he and Coomes were strangers but became friendly, and Coomes invited Green to drink with him. Green soon decided to kill Coomes after the man had shown him a roll of money. The pair entered the local fairgrounds and found an old shack that had once served as a lunch stand, and Coomes announced he would take a nap there as it was shaded and cool. Once Coomes was asleep, Green used a plank he found to beat Coomes’ head, crushing his skull to the point his brains were visible. During the assault, a long splinter came off the rest of the plank, one end of which had a nail embedded in it. Green skewered Coomes’ neck with the splinter, then lodged the nail from the other end of the wooden shard in a crack between two boards which comprised the walls of the shack. He took the money he found in Coomes’ pockets: $28, or roughly $811 today. Green then fled the scene.
Coomes’ body was discovered the following day on August 1, and identified on August 2 by his cousin. It was noted Coomes’ pockets were turned out and robbery became the suspected motive. People were questioned who had been in the area at the time of the killing, and Green’s general description was supplied. One account was likely of the men before the murder (two men casually walking together as one counted a roll of money) while the other would have been after (one man in bloody clothing hurrying away from the fairgrounds).
Green was tracked down and apprehended in Louisville, Kentucky on August 12. He confessed to the murder to a detective, though he recanted the confession during trial. According to his testimony, Green only made the confession after the detective urged him to admit his guilt lest locals form a mob, drag him from jail, and lynch him. The recantation did little in Green’s favor and he was convicted.
Green confessed again to the murder a few days before his execution, this time to his spiritual adviser, and a third time on the scaffold immediately prior to his hanging. In his final statement, Green told the crowd assembled to witness his death: “Good people, I want to say that I did this awful crime, and I have repented for it. I hope this will be a warning to all boys. Mind what your mothers tell you and leave whisky out. Don’t do as I have done, for I have done wrong this far.”
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“Green’s Crime.” The Inquirer [Owensboro, Kentucky]. February 17, 1905 (image source via newspapers.com; overlay added)
“Green Tells Same Fiendish Story to Spiritual Adviser.” The Twice-a-Week Messenger [Owensboro, Kentucky]. February 14, 1905
“Death Verdict is Given!” Owensboro Daily Messenger. September 3, 1904 (image source via newspapers.com; overlay added)
“Confession Is Admitted.” Owensboro Daily Inquirer. September 1, 1904