November 20, 1910
Four members of the Hubbell family are shot before their house is burned to destroy any evidence
The evening before the shootings, Oda Hubbell had been seen in an argument with Hezekiah “Hez” Rasco over a financial issue. Depending on the source, Oda had won either $60 (about $1,650 today) from Rasco during an election bet or $200 (roughly $5,500 today) from a poker game. In addition, Oda was seen by his brother holding a “big roll of large denominations” the day of the Hubbell family’s deaths. It was suspected either anger over losing money to Oda, robbery for the roll of cash Oda was carrying, or both had been the motive behind the family’s murders.
Around 10 p.m. on November 20, neighbors were alerted to the Hubbell’s burning house. By the time they arrived, most of the building had been destroyed, and they extinguished what flames and embers remained. It was then the neighbors saw the bodies of the Hubbell family.
Oda (29) was found on the kitchen floor while his wife Clara (29) was in the family living room near the telephone. She had likely attempted to call for help before she was killed. The children, 6-year-old Jessie and 4-year-old Welton, were found in bed close to each other. All family members had been shot before the fire was set.
Bloodhounds led law officers to Rasco’s home where they found a bloodstained gun and overalls. He was quickly arrested.
During trial, Rasco’s violent past was brought forward. Specifically, he had been convicted at the age of 16 for the October 10, 1896 murder of Kate Baumley (36) who had been beaten to death with a cast iron stove grate. Rasco confessed to the murder but, due to state law, he could not be sentenced to death. Rasco was instead sentenced to the maximum penalty available to an offender under 18: a 10-year term to be served in a reform school and then prison.
Rasco was convicted of the Hubbell family’s murders after 4 hours of deliberation and was sentenced to death.
The night before his execution, the prison chaplain spoke with Rasco. He proclaimed his innocence and, after a brief exchange, revealed a 2.5” (64 mm) knife blade he had smuggled into his cell, stating he found suicide preferable to having his “body shot through that trap.” The chaplain took the blade from Rasco and he was hanged as scheduled on March 26, 1912.
In attendance at the execution was Kate Baumley’s widower. Kate’s brother said in an interview just before the execution: “For sixteen years Mr. Baumley has had a feeling that justice had not been entirely done. We believe and think there are many who think the same way, that Rasco deserved the death sentence for the previous murder. We believe that there was no question about his guilt sixteen years ago. We sometimes have felt in the last year or so, since the Hubbell murders, that it was too bad there was a miscarriage of justice at that time. We are glad that it is almost over.”
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“Rasco Had a Knife Concealed in Cell.” St. Joseph News-Press. March 26, 1912
“Witnesses Tell of Hubbell Murders.” St. Joseph News-Press. February 2, 1911
“Bodies Of Victims Are Laid To Rest, Many At Funeral.” St. Joseph Gazette. November 23, 1910
“Rasco Says He Is Not Afraid of His Neighbors; Silent Throngs See Family Buried at Barnard.” St. Joseph Gazette. November 23, 1910
“In a Quarrel with Rasco.” The Kansas City Star. November 22, 1910
“Can Not Be Legally Hanged.” Marion County Herald. October 15, 1896