May 22 - 1912: Hyannis girl's murderer electrocuted

Clarence Virgil Thompson Richeson was put to death in the electric chair in Charlestown Prison at 12:17 o'clock
Probably the most famous electric chair, Old Sparky from Sing-Sing prison, similar to the one Richeson was executed in on May 21, 1912. Wiki Commons photo.

1912: Hyannis girl's murderer electrocuted in Charlestown

Clarence Richeson, a former local Baptist minister, pays law's penalty for slaying Avis Linnell

On this day in 1912, Clarence Virgil Thompson Richeson was put to death in the electric chair in Charlestown Prison at 12:17 o'clock for his confessed crime of murdering Avis Linnell of Hyannis in Boston on October 13, 1911.

Reverend Clarence Virgil Thompson Richeson (on the right, 15 February 1876 - 21 May 1912) was executed for the sensationalized murder of Avis Willard Linnell of Hyannis. Avis Linnell was first reported to have "committed suicide" October 14, 1911 at the YWCA in Boston. The story got the attention of the Boston Post, who assigned every available reporter to the story.

It was the Post that called for police to investigate her suicide.  It was also the Post that found the druggist in Newton who had sold Clarence Richeson the cyanide and called for the Rev. Richeson's arrest, which occurred 10 days after Avis's death.

"Murdered by the Minister"

The Post with its blaring, front-page headlines, worked all of New England into a fever pitch. The New York Times also provided extensive coverage extending beyond the date of execution. The New York Daily Post reviewed the episode Mar 24, 2007 under the headline "Murdered by the Minister."

In 1912, Richeson later claimed to Dr. Briggs that his first sexual encounter was not until 1904 and that he had no others until 1910 with Avis Linnell. He was expelled from college for cheating in 1905.  Although, an officer of the college wrote Richeson's father that "Clarence had become deranged" and they could no longer keep him as a student.

He took a pastorate at the Baptist Church in Hyannis, MA on Cape Cod in June, 1908 where he first met Avis Linnell. Avis' mother stated that she loved him as a son. On her 17th birthday, 19 December 1908, he gave her a gold engagement ring and the engagement was announced at a small party. Miss Linnell left Hyannisport in September 1910 to study at the New England Conservatory of Music.  She took a room at the Boston YWCA and the date of her marriage was set for October, 1910.  She wore the engagement ring until Christmas, 1910 when she gave it back to Richeson "to be repaired."

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