Every crook in town figured that old John Penny, a bachelor, had a pot of cash hidden in his house in Young Street, Winnipeg. Not only cash, but a hoard of diamonds.
Annie Selbach, the pretty young miss who looked after Penny, often spoke of the hoard. And two of the local crooks, Happy Horton and John Stanton, were both known to be courting Annie.
On the night of December 19th, 1922, John Penny threw a Christmas party. Happy Horton and John Stanton went along. Next day Penny was found dead on his brass four-poster bed. There was blood splattered all over the walls, and the murder weapon, a claw hammer, lay abandoned on the floor by the bed.
Happy Horton was quickly arrested. Stanton did it! he exclaimed. I fell asleep on a sofa at the party, and when I woke up he was standing over me, covered with blood. He was furious because he said he could only find $40 in the house. We beat it as fast as we could and I havent seen him since.
So where was Stanton? Police mounted a nationwide search, but he was nowhere to be found. As Horton couldnt be held indefinitely as a material witness he was tried for being an accessory before the fact and jailed for seven years.
It took another two and a half years to track down John Stanton. When he was shown Hortons statement, he smiled. Its all correct except for one thing, he said. It was the other way around. Horton did the murder.
He was put in the cage in Winnipegs Provincial Jail to await trial but within a few days he led a break-out with four other men. A prison guard was almost killed in the escape.
The quintet was eventually tracked to a farm, where they were hiding in the middle of a haystack. They surrendered only when the police, surrounding the stack, threatened to burn it down.
Stanton was put on trial for old John Pennys murder, and vehemently denied the evidence given against him by his old accomplice Happy Horton. But then he faced the testimony of Annie Selbach. On the fatal night, she said, Stanton boasted that he and Horton were going after the old mans diamonds even if they had to croak the old guy.
Stanton, still denying any involvement in the murder, was duly sentenced to die. On Wednesday, February 10th, 1926, he stood on the scaffold and said: Theres only one thing Id like now, and that is to have Horton standing beside me when the trap falls. Okay, lets go!