Billy Bailey

Billy Bailey

Infobox Serial Killer
name=Billy Bailey

birth year=1947
location= Smyrna, Delaware, U.S.
death=January 25, 1996

Billy Bailey (1947? - January 25, 1996) was a convicted murderer hanged in Delaware in 1996. He became the third person to be hanged in America since the resumption of executions in 1977 (the previous two were Charles Rodman Campbell and Westley Allan Dodd, both in Washington). He is currently the last person in the United States to be hanged as capital punishment.

The crime

Bailey was assigned to the Plummer House, a work release facility in Wilmington, Delaware; however, Bailey escaped later appearing at the home of his foster sister, Sue Ann Coker, in Cheswold, Delaware, saying he was upset and was not going back to the Plummer House.

He and Charles Coker, his foster sister's husband, went on an errand in Coker's truck. Bailey asked Coker to stop at a package store. Bailey entered the store and robbed the clerk at gunpoint. Emerging from the store with a pistol in one hand and a bottle in the other, Bailey told Coker that the police would be arriving and asked to be dropped at Lambertson's Corner, about one and one-half miles away.

At Lambertson's Corner Bailey entered the farmhouse of Gilbert Lambertson, aged 80, and his wife, Clara Lambertson, aged 73. Bailey shot Gilbert Lambertson twice in the chest with a pistol and once in the head with the Lambertsons' shotgun. He also shot Clara Lambertson once in the shoulder with the pistol and once in the abdomen and once in the neck with the shotgun. Both Lambertsons died. Bailey arranged their bodies in chairs and then fled from the scene. He was spotted by a Delaware State Police helicopter as he ran across the Lambertsons' field. He attempted to shoot the helicopter co-pilot with the pistol and was later arrested.


Bailey was found guilty of the murders in 1980. After his conviction the jury held that the crimes "were outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman" and recommended the death penalty. Bailey was sentenced to be hanged by his neck until he was dead.


Delaware had not carried out a hanging for 50 years so sought advice from corrections officials at Walla Walla State Penitentiary in Washington (the only other state that has carried out any hangings recently).

The wooden gallows had been built in the grounds of the Delaware Correctional Center at Smyrna in 1986, as Bailey's first execution date approached. The structure required renovation and strengthening before Bailey could be executed on it. The platform housing the trap door is 15 feet from the ground and is accessed by 23 steps.

Delaware used an execution protocol written by Fred Leuchter. This specifies the use of 30 feet of ¾ inch diameter Manila hemp rope, boiled to take out stretch and any tendency to coil. The area of the rope sliding inside the knot was lubricated with melted paraffin wax to allow it to slide freely. A black hood is specified by the protocol, as is a sandbag to test the trap door and a "collapse board" to which a prisoner can be strapped if necessary.

The day before, Bailey was weighed in at 220lbs and the drop was determined to be at around 5ft.

Bailey was moved from his prison cell to a caravan close to the gallows in preparation for the execution where he spent his last 24 hours sleeping, eating, watching television, talking with staff and meeting with his sister Betty Odom, 53, the prison chaplain, and his attorney.

For his last meal he had requested a well-done steak, a baked potato with sour cream and butter, buttered rolls, peas and vanilla ice cream. [] Dead link|date=April 2008


After his appeals failed Bailey was executed by the state of Delaware in January, 1996. He refused to exercise his option to choose lethal injection as a method of execution and was instead hanged. He became the third person to be hanged in the United States since the 1976 Supreme Court decision "Gregg v. Georgia" allowed executions, which had been halted in 1967, to resume.

References and Sources

* [ CNN article on Bailey's hanging]
* [ CNN's Gary Tuchman's eyewitness account of Bailey's hanging] (paid subscription required)

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