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A Rapist and Murderer Hanged, 1937

This post is a little off my beaten path because it deals with crimes-murder and rape, to be more specific-the murder and rape of three little girls.

I recently purchased two 1937 copies of Life Magazine for $1.00 each. The purchase was a departure from my usual purchase of old magazines because 1937 was not of the World War Two war years of 1939-1945. But for a $1.00 each I could hardly go wrong.

While paging through both magazines I could not help to contrast the content between the 1937 editions of Life and the war years editions. It raised in my mind the observation that Life through its photo journalism specialty emphasized what was important to Americans at the time. The War in Europe would dominate from 1939 to 1945 but prior to those years and after Life was more domestic in outlook.

So here we are in 2014 and sadly we are getting used to mass murder and serial killers. In 1937 both seemed rare and so were big news. Below is the sad story of three little girls and an enraged community.

Below is the cover of of the July 19th, 1937 edition of Life. The picture is of a little black girl in Harlem cooling off in what was apparently a very hot summer.


The picture that caught my eye and raised my curiosity is the one below.


The first paragraph of the caption reads like this:

“This is the face of the worst kind of criminal-the kind whose acts turn civilized men and women into lynch mobs. It belongs to commonplace-looking men who move unmolested through the streets of U.S. cities. It reveals itself at last, in cellars and alleys and by lonely roads, to the most innocent and defenseless of humans. It is the face most hated and feared by police and parents throughout the world. It is the despoiler of children.”

The man’s name was Albert Dyer. Dyer was convicted late June, 1937 of raping and murdering  Madeline Everett, 7, her sister Melba, 9 and their playmate, Jeanette Stephens, 8. The crime occurred near Los Angeles.

According to  Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murder, Dyer, who was employed as a WPA crossing guard and volunteer policeman lured the girls into an isolated ravine where he raped and killed each one. After the murders he ritually cleaned the bodies and prayed over them!

Dyer was an unlikely suspect because he was a WPA crossing guard and volunteer policeman. He was caught because after the bodies were discovered he showed up at the scene. His bizarre behavior at the scene of the crime made the police suspicious.

Part of the back story to the Dyer case was that in order to get Dyer to confess the police told him he could explain himself to the angry mob who wanted to lynch him. It would not work today but at the time it did and Dyer confessed.

As the grandfather of a five-year-old girl I could identify with the angry mob anxious for vigilante justice. Even today with our soft on crime mindset child molesters and child murderers are thought to be worst of the worst and worthy of only death.

Dyer was hanged at San Quentin Prison in 1938.

The link above at Murderpedia gives more detail as to what happened, Dyer’s statements at the time and much more background information.

Life Magazine noted this:

“In New York City arrests for sex crimes average one every six hours. Most offenders get off with fines or short jail terms, are then turned loose to commit new crimes. The only remedy for this alarming evil, say psychiatrists, is to make the punishment fit the crime but the criminal, to keep such men locked up for life, or until their abnormality has been cured.”

We live in a society and culture that seems to believe that mankind is getting better-more good, if you will. A child murderer like Dyer is deemed “sick” or as Life put it, “abnormal.” Far too easily we attribute “mental illness” to crime and in some cases, if not most it mitigates against a harsher punishment for just plain evil.

We are not getting better as these stats from FBI Crime Statistics show. An optimistic view of mankind is certainly not the Bible’s view of mankind’s sorry state.

Dyer was hanged as a deterrent for others who might be considering a heinous crime Some argue that the death penalty has not proven to be a deterrent and given the rising crime rates even in states that have the death penalty perhaps they are right.

One thing is certain-by hanging Dyer the State of California insured that he would not be raping and murdering any more little girls and that’s good enough for me.



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