Domestic Murders

Among the 201 death sentences imposed in Allegheny County history, fifty-seven were imposed on defendants, all of them men, who killed their intimate partner or, in some cases, the object of their infatuation. All of the victims were girls or women.

In thirty-eight cases, the victim was the wife or ex-wife of the defendant. In nine cases, the victim was the girlfriend, fiancee, or mistress of the defendant. In eight cases, the victim was an object of infatuation not involved in a relationship with her killer. In one case, the victim and the defendant were involved in an incestuous relationship. In five cases, one or more children were also killed in the attack.

Thirty-seven of the defendants were white and twenty were Black. Nine of the Black defendants (45%) were executed, as were 22 (59%) of the white defendants. Eight Black defendants (40%) were released from death row, as were 12 (32%) of white defendants. Two others, both white, committed suicide on death row. Four remain on death row.

Those who were executed include:

Thomas Dunning, who killed his wife while garrisoned at Fort Fayette in 1792. His execution in 1793 was the first in Allegheny County history.

Christian Jacoby, who killed his wife to marry his mistress while passing through Pittsburgh as part of his family’s immigrant journey west in 1858.

David Evans, who killed his wife for reasons apparently related to financial stress in 1858.

James McSteen, who killed his wife in a jealous rage in 1882.

Dennis Cloonan, who killed his wife in a drunken rage in 1892.

George Schmous, who killed his wife and two children

Daniel Werling, who killed his wife after a long and well-documented history of shocking violence.

Albert Woodley