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The Electrocution of Donald Gaskins

Some people just can’t stay out of trouble and after serving time and being released, they fall back into their criminal patterns. In this article, you will encounter a murderer who initially started killing hitchhikers, but then moved on to more ‘serious’ killings, as he called it.

Donald Henry “Pee Wee” Gaskins, Jr.

Donald Henry “Pee Wee” Gaskins, Jr. was sentenced to the electric chair because he killed a handful of people. His first murder actually took place while he was in prison. In 1953, he slashed the throat of a fellow inmate, claiming that he did so to earn a reputation as someone you didn’t want to mess with while in the big house. However, the prison saw him acting in self-defense and only an additional three years was tacked onto his sentence.

In 1955, Gaskins successfully escaped from prison, where he fled to Florida. However, he was arrested again, remanded to custody, and paroled in August of 1961. When Gaskins was released from prison, he remarried and tried to settle down. Yet, he turned back to his old ways and started to commit burglaries and selling stolen property. It was only two years after his parole that Gaskins was arrested again for the rape of a 12-year-old girl. While he awaited trial, he fled.

Gaskins couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble, and he was arrested again in Georgia. This time, he received an eight year sentence, and was paroled in November of 1968. When he moved to a new location, he started killing hitchhikers , torturing and mutilating the bodies. He enjoyed trying to keep his victims alive for as long as possible. He confessed to the killings and admitted to using different methods, such as stabbing, suffocation and mutilation. At one point, he even claimed to have eaten some of his victims. He told authorities that he had killed 80 to 90 people.

Some Gaskin’s later victims included the beating death of his own niece, who was 15 years old at the time. Finally, he was arrested on November 14, 1975.  Gaskins would spend many years on Death Row awaiting his end. He was finally executed on September 6, 1991.  This made him the fourth person to die in the electric chair after the death penalty was reinstated in South Carolina, which took place in 1977. It was only hours before he was to be led down to the electric chair at Broad River Correctional Institution that Gaskins attempted to take his own life by slashing his wrists with a razor blade that he was able to swallow the previous week.

An Interesting Case

Not all electrocutions go as planned. One botched case took place at Sing Sing in 1903. Fred Van Wormer was electrocuted and pronounced dead, but when he arrived at the autopsy room, he started to breathe again. By then, the executioner had already went home and was called back to re-electrocute Wormer. When he returned, Wormer had officially died, but his corpse was placed back in the chair once again and given 1700 volts of electricity for 30 seconds just to make sure.