Bethea, who confessed to the rape and murder of a 70 year-old woman, was convicted of her rape and publicly hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky.

The crime was infamous locally, but it came to nationwide attention because of one fact—the sheriff of Daviess County was a woman. Florence Shoemaker Thompson as sheriff of the county, it was her duty to hang Bethea.

Rainey Bethea with Sheriff’s / Image:  Associated Press

It was estimated that a crowd of about 20,000 people gathered to watch the execution with thousands coming from out of town. Mistakes in performing the hanging, and the surrounding media circus, contributed to the end of public executions in the United States.

Getty Images
The old Executive Inn hotel sat on the spot where the hanging took place. The hotel was demolished in 2009 / Image: unknown, via
Τhe same place today. The new building of Owensboro Convention Center / Image: by Jagoe Homes, via

Featured Image: The hanging of Rainey Bethea / Image: unknown




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