Julius Molten

Julius “Beefer” Molten, a railroad porter, and his common-law wife, Mamie Wheeler, a domestic, fought frequently.  Shortly after midnight on July 31, 1910, drunk again and jealous, Molten shot and killed Wheeler. He then attempted suicide by shooting himself once in the head. Wheeler’s 12-year old son was in the room at the time.

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The killing occurred in the 1015 Webster Avenue, Hill District home of Sallie Davis, Wheeler’s friend, where she had gone to escape Molten’s abuse.

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Webster Avenue, 1912

After Molten and Wheeler, both Virginia-born, fought on July 29 at their home, she called the police who arrested Molten. Wheeler had been badly beaten. Molten was fined and released the next day. After being released, he told others that he would kill Wheeler and another man, Frank, her alleged lover.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2, 1910

At trial, Sallie Davis described the night of the shooting and the history of abuse that preceded it. Wheeler’s young son, Louis Moore, described the scene inside the bedroom where the shooting occurred. Molten, who argued that he had been mentally incapacitated by delirium tremens two years earlier, was convicted of first degree murder on October 14, 1910.

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After his motion for a new trial was rejected, Molten was sentenced to death on November 26, 1910.

Molten’s conviction was reversed on appeal on February 6, 1911, due to a “manifestly erroneous” charge to the jury related to Molten’s insanity (alcoholic dementia) plea (Commonwealth v. Molten, 230 Pa. 399, 1911).

On retrial, on February 22, 1911, Molten was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to twenty years in Western Penitentiary. He was paroled on October 22, 1917.

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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