November 16 - 1676: First colonial prison organized

2006: Christopher McCowen found guilty
On this day in 2006 Christopher McCowen found guilty of Christa Worthington's murder. Courtesy mugshot.

1676 - 1st colonial prison organized

Introduction of whaling brought crime to Nantucket

On this day in 1676 Nantucket Island's local authorities hired William Bunker to establish the first prison in the America colonies. For every year Bunker serves as a prison warden for Nantucket's rowdiest citizens, the court agrees to pay him "foeur pounds, halfe in wheat, the other in other graine."

The necessity of a prison on Nantucket, shown below on the right courtesy of the Nantucket Whaling Museum,  had been growing steadily since 1672, the year that the island's English residents, looking for an additional source of revenue, encouraged whaling men to settle on the island.

Whales were abundant at the time and could be caught close to shore, and soon Nantucket's residents had learned the tricks of the trade from their new settlers.

By 1712, the coastal population of whales had greatly diminished, so the Nantucket islanders, all rowdy whalers by now, took to the high seas in search of valuable sperm whales. By the early nineteenth century, Nantucket was one of the greatest whaling centers in the world, and the third largest city in Massachusetts.

(Right: Old Gaol, photo courtesy of

2006: Trash collector guilty in Cape Cod slaying

Convicted of 1st degree murder of Christa Worthington

On this day in 2006 Christopher McCowen has been found guilty by a jury of 1st degree murder (felony and extreme atrocity) of Truro fashion writer Christa Worthington in January of 2002, aggravated rape and burglary. McCowen wept when the verdict was read just shy of noon today. This afternoon at sentencing McCowen spoke in court expressing sorrow for what had happened but maintaining his innocence. Judge Gary Nickerson then sentenced him to the mandatory life sentence without parole.

McCowen was charged and found guilty of first-degree murder with extreme atrocity, aggravated rape and aggravated armed robbery. Worthington's 2-year-old daughter was present when her mother was stabbed to death.

The sensationalized trial was televised on cable, drawing a lot of self-proclaimed experts out of the woodwork and churning up a lot of gossip and theories in the otherwise quiet and idyllic town.

You can scan all the coverage of this sensational story here.
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