Stanley Hoss escaped from the Allegheny County Workhouse, where he was serving time for raping a 17-year old girl, on September 11, 1969. The incident led the county to close the workhouse, pronouncing it a security risk.
Hoss remained undetected for more than a week before being recognized by a man who knew of his escape and notified police. With police in pursuit, Hoss stole a car and fled. Recognizing the stolen car, Verona Police Officer Joseph Zanella pulled over Hoss near Oakmont Country Club on the afternoon of September 19, 1969. As he approached Hoss’s car, Zanella was shot twice and killed. Hoss fled again.
In Maryland, Hoss kidnapped and stole the car of 21-year old Linda Peugeot and her daughter, Lori Mae, both of whom he subsequently killed as he fled west. Pursued by a massive law enforcement manhunt, he was apprehended in Waterloo, Iowa on October 4, 1969, after police identified Peugeot’s car and cornered Hoss outside a restaurant.
Questioned by police, Hoss confessed to all three killings. He was returned to Pittsburgh and resentenced for his previous rape conviction.
At trial, Hoss was found guilty of Zanella’s murder on March 9, 1970, and sentenced to death. His was the last death sentenced imposed in Allegheny County prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Furman decision ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional as administered.
On appeal, on October 12, 1971, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed his death sentence due to inappropriate use of his prior record when considering his penalty (Commonwealth v. Hoss, 445 Pa. 98). Hoss was resentenced to life imprisonment in Western Penitentiary.
The bodies of Linda and Lori Mae Peugeot were never found and Hoss was never prosecuted for their killings.
On December 10, 1973, Hoss and two other inmates killed Captain Walter Peterson, a Black prison guard. During the beating, the inmates shouted racial slurs at Peterson. With the death penalty having been ruled unconstitutional the prior year, the murder of a prison guard by a formerly death sentenced prisoner sparked protest and outrage among prison guards and death penalty proponents.
Hoss’s second-degree murder conviction six months later, on June 14, 1974, further angered those frustrated by what they perceived as the political and legal failures to punish violent criminals. His conviction and life sentence were affirmed on appeal (Commonwealth v. Hoss, 469 Pa. 195, 1976) after the court rejected Hoss’s claim that a change of venue should have been granted due to public hostility and prejudicial pretrial publicity he experienced.
Serving two life sentences, Hoss committed suicide in his cell at Graterford State Prison on December 6, 1978.
Hoss’s life and crimes were chronicled by James G. Hollock in his 2011 book, Born to Lose.
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