In “one of the most unusual” (Pittsburgh Daily Post, March 4, 1924) murder cases ever in the county, Warren Scott killed his wife, Frances King, by severing an artery near her vagina with the claw end of a hammer in their Franklin Way, Hill District home on September 18, 1923.
The couple had been quarreling when King threatened to call the police. Scott responded by beating her, knocking her unconscious, and disemboweling her. She bled to death. He then barricaded himself in the house. Police forced entry and arrested him.
Scott was convicted of first-degree murder on March 5, 1924, after his defense of intoxication was rejected. On May 28, 1924, he was sentenced to die in the electric chair.
Despite the unusual circumstances of the crime, the marginal statuses of the defendant and victims limited the newspaper coverage to mostly single paragraph articles. There is little information available to provide a fuller picture of the lives of Scott and King, their relationship, or King’s death.
Scott’s death sentence was respited several times while his case was being appealed. On December 5, 1924, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed Scott’s conviction and granted him a new trial (Commonwealth v. Scott, 281 Pa. 548, 1924). In its decision, the court noted that, though the evidence was sufficient to support Scott’s guilt, it was not sufficient to support a finding of first-degree murder. Specifically, the court ruled that it could not be clearly established that the hammer constituted a deadly weapon or that Scott used it in a manner reasonably intended to produce death.
Notwithstanding the inappropriateness of the death penalty, the Court’s decision is another – with the McMullen, McGowan, Hillman, Exler, Scherer, and Diano cases – in a long list in which judicial or executives authorities have granted tremendous deference to the defenses of men who killed women (see the discussion here).
At retrial on February 9, 1925, Scott pleaded guilty to murder. The judge then set the degree of murder at second degree. Scott was sentenced to nine to eighteen years in Western Penitentiary.
Warren Scott died in Mayview State Hospital on November 21, 1947. He was 58 years old.