Charles “Carl” Panzram

Carl Panzram was a serial rapist and murderer who ended his long and sordid criminal career by killing a federal prison guard. For that murder, he was executed.

Growing up in Minnesota, Panzram was involved in petty crimes. While at the Minnesota State Training School, he was repeatedly beaten and raped by staff members. Once released, his delinquency and, later, criminality continued. By the time he reached adulthood, he was moving from state to state and cycling in and out of prison for a wide variety of increasingly serious crimes.

Panzram later claimed that his murder spree began around 1920, when he started raping and killing boys and young men along the East Coast as well as while working on an oil rig in Angola, Africa.

Rutland (Vermont) Daily Herald, October 26, 1928

The events that culminated in Panzram’s execution began in August 1928, when he was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland, for burglary. Once in custody, he confessed to multiple murders. He was ultimately sentenced to 25 years to life at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.

Apparently determined to bring about his own execution, Panzram killed prison employee Robert Warnke on June 20, 1929.

Sentenced to death, Carl Panzram was hanged on September 5, 1930, at Leavenworth.

His life, crimes, and execution have been the subject of several books and a movie.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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