Mugshot March: Van Wilson’s Failed Insanity Defense

Mugshot March continues with an ugly, mysterious case. There isn’t a lot of detail available.

In 1916, 21-year-old Van Wilson had murder on his mind. His target was Frank Snedigar, a farmer living near Madisonville in Pike County, about 10 miles north of Vandalia.

Wilson shot and killed Mr. Snedigar immediately, but he also spotted his wife, and decided to kill her too. Mrs. Snedigar ran into her home and managed to hide her two small children, ages 8 and 4, behind a bookcase before Wilson entered the house and shot her.

Before the tragedy, Frank Snedigar had sensed trouble, and had even asked a friend to help smooth the trouble between him and Hiram Wilson, Van’s father.

Van Wilson


The trial was held in Pike County, and Wilson’s attorneys defended him on grounds of insanity. The jury didn’t buy it. They convicted Van Wilson of first degree murder, and the judge sentenced the defendant to natural life. A curious note in the Ralls County Record reads: “Wilson is related to some of the best people in Ralls County. His parents are among the most highly respected people of the vicinity in which the murder was committed. They have the sympathy of all in their affliction.”

His sentence officially began December 8, 1916, and was punctuated by long stays at Fulton Asylum for the Insane.

July 6, 1918: Transfered to Fulton Hospital for the Insane

January 10, 1922: Returned to the Missouri penitentiary

February 7, 1924: Transfer to Fulton Hospital for the Insane

September 4, 1924: Returned to the Missouri penitentiary

March 30, 1925: Transfer to Fulton Hospital for the Insane

November 30, 1926: Returned to the Missouri penitentiary

In December 1942, Van Wilson, now 47, was discharged from the Missouri penitentiary by Governor Stark

Fulton Asylum, Missouri