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The Heart-Tugging Story Behind The Wrongful Execution Of Joe Arridy

The Heart-Tugging Story Behind The Wrongful Execution Of Joe Arridy

The story The Heart-Tugging Story Behind The Wrongful Execution Of Joe Arridy appeared first on StoryPick.

Joe Arridy himself confessed to having raped and killed a school girl in his hometown Pueblo, Colorado.

And that was that. The case was sealed, and Arridy was now a criminal on a death row.


When they asked him about what he wanted for his last meal, he asked for ice cream.

And when they asked him about his impending execution, he seemed baffled.

Like an innocent tiny tot, perhaps, he would have shrugged a little, scrunched his nose a little, and would have tried to figure what they were talking about. As if he even could!

That weirdo didn’t even get the essence when the word ‘gas chamber’ was mentioned to him.

In the state of bewilderment, and carrying a childishly quirky confidence, all he could manage to say was,

“No, no, Joe won’t die.”


The prison warden Roy Best even tagged him as the “happiest man on death row”.

Joe Arridy (left) with Warden Best

He was a favourite of all, but to himself, his favourite companion was a toy train, given to him as a Christmas present by Warden Best.

Eighteen months and seven days of his life in prison, he enjoyed thoroughly with his toy train.

He would set off the train chugging through his bars of the cell onto the corridor. The other convicts on the death row would reach out to catch hold of the toy. They would create diversions, cause accidents, perform rescue operations, and after it all, they would send the train back to its lovable owner, Arridy, who all the while, would be giggling over the shenanigans of the train and his buddies.


Joe Arridy, handing over his toys, before the execution.

But, the play time was over now.

A clueless Joe, gave up his toys, and was accompanied to the chamber by warden Best and Father Schaller.

The crowd watched, as their bubbly buddy headed towards his dying spot.

Before being taken in, he was made to strip to just his socks and shorts.

And so close to breathing his last, he did a strange gesture. The weirdo smiled while the guards tied him to the chair.

The warden, apparently, wanted to say a lot, but all he could do to convey his many emotions was pat Arridy’s hand.

And then, they walked out of the chamber.

Aged 23, on 6-January-1939, Arridy breathed his last.


The reality is a little bit more hard-hitting than what might have appeared as an unusually repenting criminal who played with his toy train.

With an IQ of 46, Joe Arridy had a mental age of a 6-year-old.

A young American boy battling intellectual disability was arrested wandering near the railyards in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was arrested for the crime that had happened in Pueblo. Upon inquiry, Arridy told the sheriff-in-charge that he had come via Pueblo. Prior to this, a man known by the name Frank Aguliar was already arrested as the prime suspect in Pueblo.

At the time they had caught hold of Arridy, the sheriff-in-charge contacted the sheriff of Pueblo and claimed that Arridy had confessed several times to have been with a man named Frank.

Arridy gave several versions of the murder.

One time he told that a club was used as a weapon, but during the investigation, an axe was recovered from the crime scene. When this came to Arridy’s notice, he agreed to have used an axe.

Arridy said a lot, but nothing quite made sense. Whatever he said, though, portrayed him as the criminal.


There were also three psychiatrists who agreed that a man with such a poor intellect can’t identify wrong from right, and don’t really have enough brains to commit a crime with the intent of doing so.

In this image,  an expressionless Arridy is shown bidding a final goodbye to his mother.

But, so what? It was a crime, right? And that’s what mattered.

But no, there’s another leaf to the story. An important one.

At no point of time during the entire trial, did Aguilar mentioned anything about Arridy. And even if Arridy was there, it was found that he did not commit the crime. (Aguilar was executed 2 years prior to Arridy’s execution).

In all probability, Arridy himself didn’t know what the deal was about. He didn’t even understand what the death sentence was about!

Even the sister of the victim, who too was hit but survived the comma, had identified Frank as the killer.

Pueblo County District Attorney, French Taylor asked Barbara Drain (the little sister of Dorothy Drain- the victim), if she could identify the man in the courtroom.

Barbara said, yes.

She walked across the courtroom and pointed at Frank Aguilar.


4 years ago, in January of 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who was also a former district attorney, granted Arridy posthumous pardon.

He took this decision following the research that showed that Arridy wasn’t likely in Pueblo when the crime took place, to begin with!

The man who had walked into the chamber with a faith of a 6-year-old, died without even knowing why.

But, what’s further saddening is that he was executed for what later on turned out to be a crime, that he was, in all probability, not even involved in.


I like researching and reading about heart-tugging and intriguing real life stories…this was one of them that I really wanted to share. :) 

Fact Sources: 1, 2, 3

Cover Image Source

The story The Heart-Tugging Story Behind The Wrongful Execution Of Joe Arridy appeared first on StoryPick.

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