Sheriff Tires of Insanity Charade, Drags Wife-Killer to the Gallows
A long-time resident of Merlin, Ore., Charles Fiester, was convicted on Oct. 5, 1895, and sentenced to hang for drowning his wife, Nancy, in a shallow pool of water in the presence of his young children. He had said he tried to drown himself, too. Fiester’s lawyer appealed the case to the Oregon Supreme Court, and the hanging was postponed.
When Fiester began refusing to eat or respond to people, a physician declared Fiester insane, and he was confined to the Josephine County jail for the next 515 days, where the sheriff and his deputies kept him fed. Things changed after May 10, 1897, when someone overheard an incriminating conversation during the night between Fiester and his son, who was visiting the jail. A judge ordered Fiester hanged at 1 p.m., June 10, 1898.
When the appointed day and time arrived for his execution, Fiester collapsed in his cell and appeared to be dying. Sheriff Josephe G. Hiatt wasn’t about to be fooled twice. When the hanging hour arrived, the sheriff strapped Fiester to a board and hauled him to the gallows.
Fiester’s hanging was Josephine County’s second.
Source: Goeres-Gardner, Diane L. Necktie Parties: Legal Executions in Oregon, 1851-1905. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2005. 194-99. "Grants Pass Murder." San Francisco Call 20 May 1895, vol. 7, no.161 ed. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.