Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Killed By Her Husband - Full Story

Joe Ott Hung - The Trap was Sprung at 1:27 A.M -

The closing chapter in the life of Joseph Ott was enacted this morning .  It was 1:27 A.M. when the fatal trap was sprung and he dropped to certain death.  Seven minutes afterwards the doctors pronounced him dead, justice hadmeted out to the man who coolly pounded his wife to death while she was begging for mercy.
If there were those expected to see him break down at the last minute they were mistaken.  When the sheriff entered his cell at a few minutes past one o'clock and told him there ready, he got up off the bed and stood erect while the death warrant was again read to him, as the law directs.  His face was just a little pale but that was all.  He then helped put on the black mantle, putting it on as he might a coat, and later, when he stood on the trap and the noose was being adjusted, he turned his neck from side to side helping settle it properly.  He then walked with a firm step out of the jail, around the building to the scaffold and up the stairs.  He stood erect on the drop and attentively listened to the reading of the scriptures by Rev. Fjelsdstad and a prayer by the same gentleman. When asked if he had anything to say he slowly raised his head and cast his eyes over the large crowd in front of him and said in substance: "Friends, I am sorry for what I did to my wife, and I want you to pray for me.  If I had read my Bible and loved the Lord as I should have done I would not have done what I did.  I bib you all good evening."  The noose was adjusted, prayer again offered, and while it was in progress the lever was touched and he shot downward.  His neck was broken and he died without
apparently a tremor.  In seven minutes the doctors said he was dead the body was cut down.  It will be buried today in the Granite Falls cemetery.

There were some four hundred men in the enclosure and there was besides a large crowd standing outside where they could see the procession as it passed from the jail into the yard, but there was not a sound, nothing that would have told a blindfolded man he was in the presence of a large number of people.  Every hat came off when the procession started from the door to the yard.  It was a most solemn and respectful audience, it could not have been more so.  The jail yard was brightly lightened up with electric lights so that all could see the place. It was almost solemn scene, and no person present will ever forget.

Ott had selected as witnesses of his execution H.F. Dohrman and A. Dorhman of Sleepy Eye, and
August Henschke, Echo.

Ott's six children came up from Echo Wednesday morning and visited their father for the last time at the jail.  At his request sheriff Schwalier let the children into the cell with him, where he sat with them on the cot.  The scene was a very affecting one.  Ott broke down and cried like a child, and of course the children cried bitterly.  Even the son, who had heretofore refused to forgive his father or have anything do to with him, broke down and cried.  The scene was one few people would care to witness.


The crime for which Joseph Ott was hanged was that of the killing of his wife on the evening of May 18, 1898.  The murder was a most brutal and horrible one in all its details, and while it was probably not really premeditated, yet the cause that led up to it was an unhappy married life, unhappy because he made it so, and he had before gone so far as to threaten her life and that of other members of the family.  He on one occasion threatened to kill his oldest son, and did injure him quite badly.  He had also threatened the parents of his wife.  His wife had left him several times, and twice had applied for a divorce, but withdrew the case and made up each time on his earnest protestation to do better.

This kind of life finally led up to the murder.  He was simply a brute by nature while still a man of some intelligence.  He was of German-Jewish extraction. He was of such a nature that he seemed to take real pleasure in causing pain to a dumb animal, or even to a human being.  not since the night of the horrible and bloody murder has he shown any regret for what he did.  He once remarked that it would have come some time and it was just as well it was over with.  He has always said he was ready to die, not apparently having any fears about facing death.  When the death warrant was read to him some weeks ago he merely said he, wished it could take place then and have it over with.

Ott lived on a farm with his family a few miles south of Echo. On the day of the murder his wife, and his son, aged about nineteen, attended a wedding in the neighborhood. They took all the children with them, leaving the father at home alone.  Toward night Mrs. Ott and her son returned home, leaving the children at the neighbor's.  Their intention was to to return to the dance which was to take place that evening at the house where the marriage took place.  Ott was in the yard when the mother and son drove up.  Mrs. Ott got out of the wagon and went into the house followed by Ott.  He was angry because they had been to the wedding and commenced to abuse his wife as soon as she got out of the wagon.  He asked where the children were, she told him where they were and said she left them there because she and the boy intended to return to the dance, and wanted him to go along.  He said he would not go and that she should not either.  They went into the house together where they continued their quarreling for a few minutes when he struck her.

Ott tells the following story of how he killed her, and he has always told it as one might tell of how he has killed some wild animal: "She had been at the wedding and was going back and wanted me to go along.  I did not want to go and we got into some words.  Then I struck her several times with my fist, but I saw I could not give her enough that way and went and got the billy. I struck her several times with this and told her I had been divorced from her once and now I would give her a divorce that would last.  She said 'O, Joe, don't kill me.  Don't strike me any more and I won't say any more about it.'   Then I caught her by the hair and dragged her out of the bedroom, and I'll bet I struck her fifteen times with the billy."

Ott then went out, and told his son he had killed his mother. The son immediately started for Echo, and on the way he stopped at the nearest neighbors, Mr. Cooper's and told him what had happened.  Cooper went at once to the Ott residence.  He met Ott in front of the house and asked him if it was so that his wife was hurt.  He replied that she was, and asked Cooper if he wanted to see her.  Cooper followed him into the house, and Ott, pointed to the body of his wife, said "There she is."  Cooper asked him what he did it with, and he said "This," exhibiting the billy.  This billy was one of those leather covered ones loaded with shot or iron at one end. this weapon he had in the house some twenty years, having bought it in Chicago that long ago.

Deputy Sheriff Milo Beard was soon there from Echo and he at once placed Ott under arrest and brought him into Granite Falls that same night. Had he been allowed to remain in Echo that night he never would have lived to be hung.  There were strong threats of lynching, and for that reason Sheriff Schwalier took extra precautions with his prisoner for some time.

The June term of court convened a few weeks after the deed had been committed and the trial of the fiend was soon over with.  The grand jury found an indictment against him, and he was at once taken before the court to plead.  He plead guilty to the charge of murder.  The court appointed two lawyers to defend him, as he had procured none. When the case was again called he stood up and said he was guilty as indicted, and Judge Qvale sentenced him to hang after three months.  He took his sentence with the same degree of emotion any ordinary man might take a sentence of one day in jail.  And from that time to this he has never seemed to care as to his fate.  He has always said he killed his wife and was ready to die for it.

The scaffold on which he was executed was build in the jail yard right up against the south end of the jail.  This was surrounded with a high board fence so that no one on the outside could see what was going on inside.  Every detail for the execution was carefully carried out be sheriff Joe Schwalier, and nothing was left undone that would go to have things as they should be.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever seen pictures of Louise or other family members?