Executions · Kentucky

Brothers executed for killing man after a perceived insult

March 21, 1884
Columbia, Kentucky
Brothers Champ and Rudolph “Rude” Fitzpatrick are hanged for murder

The Fitzpatricks worked for a farmer with another man, Miller Brewster, whom their employer favored, which festered jealousy and hatred among the brothers. The animosity grew until August 6, 1883, when Champ approached Brewster on the street, accusing him of spreading lies and defaming his character. Brewster denied the allegations, but stated if he had unconsciously spoken poorly of either brother he would recant the insults, and emphasized he didn’t want trouble. Champ, still angry, punched Brewster in the face, knocking his hat off in the process.

Brewster, who had been holding his young son’s hand until this point, let go of his child to pick up his hat, again stating he wanted no trouble. Champ then drew a knife and stabbed Brewster several times. A crowd gathered around the men with the witnesses shouting for them to separate. The commotion drew the attention of Rude Fitzpatrick who ran to his brother, pulled out his pistol, and shot Brewster just below his nipple. Brewster crumpled to the ground, his head resting on his hand. Champ then walked around to the front of Brewster, aimed at his head, and fired once. Brewster died on the street.

The brothers were immediately arrested. They were convicted in September and sentenced to hang in December, but were granted a temporary reprieve until their final execution date was established as March 21.

In front of 5,000 spectators, the brothers ascended the scaffold. Champ used his final statement to claim he would be going straight to heaven while Rude stated he had simply come to his younger brother’s defense and was not guilty of murder. The Fitzpatricks were hanged next to each other, dropping through a trapdoor built twice as wide as usual to allow both to fall at the same time.

Sources:
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“Double Death.” The Courier-Journal. March 22, 1884 (image source, via newspapers.com)
“Double Hanging.” The Memphis Daily Appeal. March 22, 1884
“News of Kentucky.” The Courier-Journal. [Louisville, Kentucky]. November 18, 1883

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