Loth Awaits Execution
 at Dannemora - 1893




The  Arrangements Made for His Execution—A Star Reporter Visits the Prison—Condemned Men Do Not Fare Like Other Convicts.  Description of the Apparatus of Death—Loth to Be Killed Within a Fortnight.

A way up in the mountains of the northern part of the state, Clinton prison is now a place of interest to many in this city, since within it walls Cornel Loth, Schenectady’s first victim to the new method of execution, lies under sentence of death.  The date fixed for the execution is now rapidly approaching and within a fortnight the murder of Mrs. Etta Demacsek will have been expiated by a form of death which, because of its element of mystery, seems doubly horrible, but which, in its execution, seems unattended by any unnecessary pain.

So little is known concerning the manner in which a murderer condemned under the electrical execution law spends the few days allowed him, and the preparations which are made to take the life which justice demands shall be forfeited, that within a few days past a STAR reporter visited the state prison at Dannemora with the intention of gaining as much information on the subject as the law would allow to be given.  The prison itself is situated but fifteen miles south of the Canadian border, on the line of the Chateaugay railroad.  This road runs through one of the most desolate sections of the state and it is said that Loth, who had been in good spirits while being taken to the prison, became melancholy when this section of the journey was reached and his last view of the outside world was filled with such utter loneliness and desolation.  Arriving at the station at Dannemora a short walk brings one to the prison, surrounded by a turreted wall of heavy masonry.

          The reporter was received with great courtesy by Warden, and escorted by him, was shown the working of the great institution.  Its factories, machine shops, cook rooms, bakeries, cells, library, school room, hospital and chapel were all visited and would furnish endless material for description  were not our interests centered in the more somber and forbidding portion,--the death chamber and the bells of the condemned.



           These cells are situated in the main building and are reached by a corridor which passes the door of the warden’s office.  They are three in number and are entirely isolated from the cells of the other prisoners.  At present they are all filled, Loth occupying the one in the middle.  On one side is Charles A. Wright, sentenced from Essex county for the murder of Mrs. Taylor.  He has been granted a new trial by the court of appeals.  At his left is Peter Martello, an Italian, who murdered a fellow countryman at Saratoga Springs.  Martello is also under a stay, his case having been appealed, so that, of the trio, Loth is the only one whose death is absolutely certain.

        Warden Thayer says that since Loth has been at the prison he has been an exemplary prisoner, being well behaved and attentive to his religious duties.  He has made no further confession nor readmitted the one which he denied at the trial.  On the contrary he has written a letter to Governor Flower, in which he repeats the story which he told at the trial and in which he charges the crime upon the man, Leichman, whom he says has fled to Hungary.  This story is contradictory and highly improbable and, as Loth does not appear to have a friend on earth, there is no prospect of a stay in the execution of the death sentence.  Under the terms of the new law Loth is allowed to see no one except the warden, his spiritual advisor and the death watch.  He is not fed on the regular prison fare but, with the other condemned men is fed from the hospital kitchen.  The fare is that of an ordinary restaurant and he may order anything he wishes which it is possible to procure.  Neither is he compelled to wear the prison garb and dresses as he did while in jail here.  At the time of his execution he will be furnished with a cutaway suit of plain black.  Reading matter is freely allowed the condemned men and the prison officials furnish them with many newspapers and periodicals.



The chaplain of the prison, Rev. Anson Cheeseman, is of the Methodist denomination and, as Loth is a Catholic, he has for his spiritual advisor a French priest named Father Belanger who lives in the village of Dannemora.  The reverend father was seen by the reporter and said that he found Loth well disposed.  He is repentant and, as he himself puts it, wants to die a good death.  While in jail here Loth said he did not care how soon they killed him but now FAther Belanger says he shows great desire to live, which was the cause of his letter to the governor.  He receives a visit every other day from the priest.  At Loth's request, Father J.N. Beaudry, a French priest living at Redford will also attend him at the execution.



The portion of the prison devoted to the carrying out of the death sentence is directly in the rear of the cells of the condemned and is arranged as shown in the accompanying diagram.  The death chamber itself is a gloomy room, lighted from windows near the ceiling and floored with cement.  A wooden flooring covers the cement in the end toward the death chair.  This chair, which is the one in which Cal Wood was executed, is of inch and a half oak and is of peculiar construction, the office of the front legs being taken by the ankle rest.  A wedge shaped pad of hard rubber is fastened to the back for a head rest and broad straps of black leather fasten the victim to his seat.  One of these straps is so arranged as to form a mask when placed about the condemned man's head, only the nose and mouth being visible.  Similar straps fasten the victim's arms and chest to the back of the chair and the forearm to the arms of the chair.  The ankles rest in hollows of the ankle rest and are also strapped.  One of the electrodes is bound to the calf of the prisoner's left leg and the other to the top of his head.  To these are attached sponges which are kept moist by water which drips upon them from rubber bags suspended from the ceiling.  This is to prevent the burning of the flesh which formed so repulsive a feature of the first electrocutions.

In a corner of the room and behind the chair is the executioner's closet.  Here is the switch which turns the current into the victim's body, also a bank of lamps for determining the power of the current.  The executioner is out of sight of those in the death room and cannot see the execution.  He receives the signals from the surgeon who stands beside the chair.  At the lower end of the room the witnesses will be seated in a semicircle while the warden, his deputy, the two priests, three surgeons and two guards will stand beside the chair.

Leading from the death chamber is a corridor which passes to the condemned cells and is the scene of the death march.  Off from this corridor is the morgue a toilet room, the reception for the witnesses and the dissecting room.

Loth was sentenced to be killed during the week beginning January 16, and the execution will probably take place at noon either Monday or Tuesday of that week.  Before that time the death warrant will have been read to him in his cell.  The death march will be led by Warden Thayer and Deputy McKenna.  After them will come Loth between the two priests followed by two guards.

Warden Thayer, who will superintend the execution, is a former resident of this city.  He has held his present office for one year during which time there has been but one execution, that of Cal Wood, who murdered his father-in-law, Leander Pasco.  While the warden does not wish to gain a reputation as an executioner, he is proud of the success of Wood's execution.  At that time it was the most successful electrocution yet held and he expects to do even better in Loth's taking off.  The new plan of lowering the voltage and increasing the time of the second contact, which was so successful in the last execution at Sing Sing, will be tried in this case.  After the execution the body will be turned over to the surgeons for dissection.

The time is rapidly approaching for the final act in the tragedy and soon the law will have avenged the cruel murder of Mrs. Demacsek, a crime so revolting as to stifle all sympathy for the condemned man even in the loneliness and friendless condition to which he awaits death.

A contemporary newspaper account.