Palace of Death
by H.M. Fogle, 1908

Chapter 8
Otto Leuth
August 29, 1890

Merely a boy--but depraved beyond description. Ravished and killed a 9-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio. Hanged in a double execution Aug. 29, 1890.

The Prison's First Double Exection

Several months after the execution of "Blinkey" Morgan, a new administration assumed control of the Penitentiary. Over two years elapsed before the gruesome engine of death was again set in motion. But the gallows-tree, on August 29, 1890, as if to make reparation for its failure to yield in the interim, bore a double crop of fruit.

The rope which had done such valiant service in the past, was replaced with a new hempen cord; and the minor details, necessary to the completion of the object in view, were not overlooked.

The men who satisfied the demands of justice on this occasion were John (alias Brocky) Smith, a Cincinnati thug of doubtful antecedents, and Otto Leuth, the Cleveland "boy murderer."

On the fateful night an air of gloom and sorrow hung over the dingy walls of the old prison. All who entered it, came under the influence of the awful spell, and were much affected by the mournful surroundings. That silence which death alone can claim, softened the voice and muffled the steps of every living creature about the sombre encosure. The usual noise and bluster, the slamming of the great iron doors, and the tread of heavy feet upon the great stone slabs within the main corridors, gave way to a silence that reminded one of the grave.

Those who were present to witness the double execution, while awaiting the arrival of the fateful hour, had formed themselves into little groups and, in subdued tones, were discussing the fate of the condemned men, or speculating on the manner in which they would meet their doom.

The execution took place promptly at the appointed hour; and, let it be said to the credit of the new officers in charge, that it could not have been more skilfully manipulated, or more fruitful of satisfactory results.

Those present to witness the ghastly visitation of death upon the two murderers, were simply astounded at the cool and indifferent manner in which both Leuth and Smith took their positions on the gallows. There were a number present who had either assisted, or witnessed previous executions; and all agreed that never before had they witnessed such an exhibition of nerve as that displayed by Smith and Leuth as they approached the brink of death. The composure of both was so remarkable that all were dumbfounded, and at a loss to account for it.

The two murderers were executed within three-quarters of an hour, and both died without a struggle.


The condemned men were sitting in the reception room of the Annex when Warden Dyer approached with the death warrants. That of young Leuth was read first. Preliminary to the reading of the warrant, Warden Dyer said with much feeling, "Well, Otto, I have come to read your death warrant, and a painful duty it is, too."

The young murderer arose from his seat, and answered: "Well, Warden, I am quite ready to hear it, and will be glad when it is all over."

While the instrument was being read, Leuth stood with one foot resting on the round of his chair, and his body swayed gently to and fro. As the last words were spoken he remarked with a sigh: "Well, it is all over with me now."

When the warrant was read to Smith, he stood with his hands resting on his hips, and had nothing to say when the Warden concluded. His countenance, however, plainly showed that the reading of the fatal instrument had assisted him to realize more fully that the hour of his doom was very near.

Chaplain Sutton at this juncture called the men close to him, and with one hand resting on the shoulder of Leuth, the other on Smith, he invoked the divine blessing and beseeched the tender mercies of their Maker upon the two men. Leuth, during the prayer, dropped his head upon his breast and covered his face with his hands. Smith simply bowed his head.

The executioners had entertained some fear that Leuth would break down, and for this reason it was decided to hang him first, thinking that if there was any danger of his giving way to his feelings, he would be more likely to do so if Smith was swung off first.

Two minutes after midnight the youthful murderer was called out of his cell, and walked alone to the scaffold. Not a muscle was seen the quiver as he stepped upon the fatal trap.

"Well, Otto," said Deputy Warden Porter, "if you have anything to say, say it quickly."

"Well, I don't know as I have anything to say, more than what I have said, except I forgive all my enemies--and--and, I guess that is all I have to say. Good-bye, everybody. Good-bye, Thompson" (the Warden's son-in-law). Turning to Deputy Warden Porter, who was adjusting the straps about his legs, he said: "Tell Smith good-bye--tell Smith good-bye. Hold on there, you are pulling that mask around," said Otto as the noose was being adjusted, "do that business good. Now, do that business good," he added. After everything was ready, Otto gave vent to these, his last words: "All right, let 'er go!" Scarcely had he uttered them when he shot through the trap into eternity.

The crime of young Leuth, who was an overgrown German bot of seventeen years, was a most feindish and atrocious one. The shocking details, as told by himself, are too horrible and revolting to put into print.

His parents were honest, respectable people, but they were responsible for the existence of one of the most depraved and morally warped human creatures that ever breathee the breath of life. Even while the boy was in the shadow of death, his innate viciousness constantly cropped out, predominating over any redeeming virtue he might have posessed. Only a few days before his execution, he was reported to the Deputy Warden for vile conduct and vile language. The prison officials, with one accord, declare him to have been the most depraved creature ever confined behind the walls of the Penitentiary. He was the prototype of Jesse Pomeroy, and the motive of his crime was identical with that of the Massacusetts child-slayer. Leuth's devilish deed was committed on May 9, 1889, when he ravished and cruelly murdered little Maggie Thompson, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighboring family.

The last time the fond parents saw her alive, was when she kissed both good-bye, and tripped away joyous and happy to school. When she did not return home at the close of the school nor at nightfall, the anxious parents instituted a search for their darling, but failed to find her. After a sleepless night, the now thoroughly alarmed parents notified the police, and sought their aid, but all efforts to find the missing child proved futile. Suburban towns, and the country for miles around were thoroughly searched, but no tidings of the little one could be obtained. A month had come and gone, and the unavailing search was abandoned. On the very next day, a German lady who lived adjoining the Leuths, noticed a sickening odor arising from the basement of her neighbor's house. This was the key to the solution of little Maggie's death. The police were notified and a search of the premises followed. A part of the kitchen floor was removed, and a sickening sight met the horrified gaze of the officers. There lay the mutilated and decomposed remains of little Maggie Thompson.

The entire Leuth family was at once arrested, and charged with the murder. Finally the detectives extorted a confession from the guilty youth. Otto, the sixteen-year-old son, told how he had enticed the child into the house while his parents were absent from the city, and forced her to submit to his fiendish desires. Then, certain that the little sufferer would betray him, he compounded his hellish deed by braining her with a hatchet. He kept the body of his innocent victim in the house until its removal became imperative, then secreted it under the floor.

During the hunt for the missing child, Otto Leuth was one of the most untiring searchers, and not a ghost of suspicion rested upon him until after the discovery of the murdered child.

The grief-stricken mother of little Maggie became a raving maniac, and today she sits in the corner of a dark asylum cell, a blasted life, a broken heart; a demoniacal smile plays on her lips as she talks to and caresses her darling girl, whom she imagines is ever present. Death to her would be a merciful relief.

The distracted and heart-broken father succumbed to sorrow, and shortly after the death of his idolized little daughter, he was laid beside her in the Cleveland cemetery. Thus three lives were blotted out by this fiend incarnate. The father's dying wish was, that the guilty be speedily punished.

Strange to say, in the face of all the misery and death, there are those who regard Otto Leuth as a martyr, a saint, and his execution a crime. The supreme torments of hell-fire are an exquisite pleasure compared to the just deserts of such a human fiend.

Certain Christian ladies, or rather ladies who professed to be Christians, deeply interested themselves in the young ravisher's behalf and endeavored to save his neck from the hangman's halter. Such sentiment is actuated by a hyper-sensitive heart, or a diseased mind. Sentimental mothers and daughters who never shed a tear for little Maggie Thompson, or gave a thought to her grief-stricken, heart-broken parents, made the young wretch the object of their adoration. Such sentimentality is sickening, nauseating, to all right-minded people, and a stench in the nostrils of justice. It is offering the laurel wreath of heroism to the ravisher of babes, and paying a reward to the murderer of the weak and helpless.

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Palace of Death
The Ohio Penitentiary