Leo Hall

Leo Hall

A burglar who set out to raid a house got his timing all wrong – when he arrived there he found a party in full swing.

Leo Hall, 34, an ex-prize fighter and dockyard worker, enlisted the aid of Peggy Paulos, 27, a barmaid, to break into the beachfront home of Frank and Anna Flieder, a wealthy retired couple, who lived in Erland’s Point, Bremerton, Washington state. When they arrived in the middle of the party Hall covered the guests with his gun while Peggy bound and gagged them.

After ransacking the house for money and jewellery, Hall decided that he must eliminate all the witnesses – that is, all the partygoers. When he killed his first victim, the hostess Anna Flieder, Peggy got scared and ran for her life. Hall continued on his murderous rampage, beating, shooting and stabbing the guests. Later he told Peggy that he had to kill everyone because they all recognised her.

Those who died were Frank Flieder, 45, who was a retired Bremerton grocer; his wife Anna, who was the widow of Cliff Taylor, a wealthy Bremerton pharmacist; Eugene Chenevert, 51, ex-prize fighter and vaudeville entertainer; his wife Margaret, 48, also a vaudeville actor and entertainer; Magnus Jordan, 62, retired US Navy warrant officer and caretaker of the beach homes on Erland’s Point; and Ezra Bolcom, 56, a barman.

After the massacre Leo Hall fled and was at large for 18 months. Because all the witnesses were dead police had no clue as to who the killer was until finally, in October 1935, fearing for her safety, Peggy Paulos told her lawyer that she had been a reluctant participant in the robbery at Erland’s Point, and fingered Leo Hall as the mass killer. The lawyer persuaded her to go to the police, and Hall was arrested.

Both Leo Hall and Peggy Paulos stood trial in December 1935, charged with the massacre. The jury found Hall guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to hang. Peggy Paulos, who had first confessed to the crime and then testified against Hall, was acquitted. Throughout the trial Hall protested his innocence, claiming that he was never at Erland’s Point and that Peggy had lied about everything.

On the evening of Friday, September 11th, 1936, more than 100 witnesses packed into the execution antechamber in Walla Walla to watch the trap drop beneath Hall’s feet – the largest audience ever to watch an execution at the state penitentiary. Hall was hanged at 11 p.m. and 16 minutes later prison officials pronounced him dead.