When people are sentenced to life in prison, they are quickly forgotten by everyone but the people who loved them most. (Celebrity prisoners like Chris Watts and Scott Peterson are an exception, but that is a recent phenomena.) This post features five prisoners from Missouri, all of whom were given a life sentence in the 1920s. No doubt by the time the men featured in this post met their end, they had been, by and large, forgotten by the world.

Our first prisoner is Walter Hardin Coffey, who was sentenced to natural life in Jackson County, Missouri on Dec 12, 1921.

Mugshot 12/28/1921

 

Coffey managed to survive in prison for 16-and-a-half years before he had to be transferred to Fulton Hospital for the Insane on March 21, 1938. He died there on October 12, 1940.

 

In Jackson County, Missouri, Harry Lynch was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in 1923.

Mugshot 12/13/1923

Lynch was sentenced to life on November 21 of that year. He spent 17 years in Missouri State Penitentiary before succumbing in the prison hospital on September 22, 1940. In an unusual side note, the prison records, which tended to be a bit haphazard, very precisely noted that Lynch died at 1:07 AM.

 

Next up, we have William Collins, who pleaded guilty to assault with intent to kill in Henry County. He was sentenced to 99 years on Sept 17, 1924– an effective life term.

Mugshot 9/18/1924

Collins was incarcerated for 18 years before being transferred to Fulton Asylum on January 17, 1942. Nine months later, the asylum returned Collins to prison, presumably he was well enough to go back. But after six months, the prison again sent him back to Fulton and he remained there until his death on October 25, 1946. You may have noticed Collins is wearing overalls in his mugshot. It seems unusual today but there were a surprising number of prisoners sporting overalls in vintage mugshots. A large percentage of the jobs for ordinary people in the early twentieth century were related to agriculture, especially from the middle of the country.

 

Charles Ross Bringman stood trial for first-degree murder in Henry County in January 1925.

Mugshot 1/23/1925

Bringman was convicted and was sentenced to a life term on January 12, 1925. Nineteen years and eleven months passed in the Missouri State Penitentiary, before Bringman was killed by another inmate in the “B” hall.

 

Lastly, we have Roy M. Turner. Turner may look like the unluckiest prisoner of all, but he fared better than the others. Like the other prisoners he was tried and convicted of first-degree murder.

Mugshot 2/20/1926

Turner was sentenced to life in Jackson County on February 13, 1926, but he was paroled on July 19, 1955 by the board of probation and parole. For four years, two months, and three days, Turner was free again. He died of a heart attack in September of 1959.

 

Meet Coleman “Cole” Blease, the mustachioed governor and later senator of the great state of South Carolina from 1910 – 1915.

As you will soon learn, Cole Blease had some major character flaws. However, nobody is all bad or all good, and it’s more charitable and interesting to consider him as a whole person. So, my goal is simply to present this man to you as he presented himself to the citizens of the day.

Gov. Cole Blease

When Governor Blease assumed office, South Carolina was in the throes of civil unrest. Many farmers were giving up the land and going to work in the mills, in quest of a living wage. Black and white, men and women, children and adults were thrown together for the first time – with the only commonality being an unfamiliar environment. The results were frequently chaotic and violent.

Cole Blease didn’t create the stormy environment in South Carolina, but he definitely contributed to it. For one thing, the governor worsened tensions between black and white workers with racist tirades. Black men, he told audiences, would gain the right to vote just as surely as poor white men would lose it.

No one asked the governor how he felt about women of any race getting the vote, but it’s probably safe to assume he was no suffrage advocate. He was violently opposed to women “doing society” instead of staying home with their families. He warned mill workers that the aim of women was to “give us their dresses for our pants.” (No word on how the governor figured out our secret plan.)

Continue reading

This is the second update on the 1903 James Patterson murder cold case. Here’s a link to the original story and a link to part one of the update. The first update is about new information uncovered about the time before the murder. This post deals with what happened after the murder.

Incidentally, is a murder that took place over a century ago really a cold case? A case can be cold in a matter of weeks – as soon as the active investigation ends. This one may be cryogenically frozen.

Continue reading