Charles H. Key

The body of Smith R. McLaughlin was discovered north of Denison, Texas, in the Choctaw Nation, on July 4, 1894. Charles Key was taken into custody after being identified as the man who was seen in the vicinity at the time of the killing.

Investigation indicated that Key had hired McLaughlin as a teamster on the pretense of helping him on his ranch, only to rob and kill him.

At trial in federal court, Key maintained that he was insane. Though he was convicted of murder, the imposition of sentence was delayed as the court sought to determine “whether or not he is shamming insensibility” (Galveston Daily News, June 30, 1895). After determining he was sane, he was sentenced to death on July 17, 1895.

Charles Key was hanged in Paris, Texas, on September 13, 1895.

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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