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One Hundred One Years Ago We Remember Mark Wilkins

101st Anniversary of the Passing of Mark Wilkins

Friday the Thirteenth loomed large for sixty two year old Mark A. Wilkins, murderer of Vernie Carmin, with whom he consorted in Oakland in 1907.  The ceremony and heartfelt documentation was complete showing that Wilkins went to his death on the gallows at 10:31 AM Friday January 13, 1912 as the 309th legally executed Californian.   He was calm arid unruffled to the end.  Wilkins had used every means to obtain freedom and a stay of justice.  The last move was the plea to Governor Johnson by prominent men in California.  Johnson decided that Wilkins would become the 309th legally executed Californian.

Almost blindly Wilkins walked up the 13 steps to the fatal trap, that was to drop him into eternity.  He was compelled to leave his glasses in the death chamber when the somber vested priests and Warden Hoyle led the death march into the execution room.  The gray haired man was helped up the scaffold by two guards.  Before the black cap was put over his face he took one glancing look at the 35 spectators, but did not find a familiar face.

To the last the aged murderer tried to keep his promise to cheat the gallows.  When taken to the death chamber yesterday from the condemned cell, a piece of copper, sharpened to a razor's edge, was found; concealed in a prayer book with which he tried to console himself.

Wilkins slept the greater part of last night and in his wakeful' hours he talked with the death watch.  This morning he ate most his breakfast and drank two glasses of whisky. 

He was visited by Warden Hoyle early today and still denied his guilt, saying he was dying innocent, with a clear conscience.  He asked the warden to thank all those who had helped to fight his battle for liberty.  At the time Wilkins was the oldest man to hang at San Quentin.  Wilkins' heart took as long to stop beating as that of men of much younger years who have been executed at the penitentiary. 

 

Wilkins was the first prisoner to feel the hangman's noose since Governor Johnson has been governor of California.   While Prison Physicians H. K. Klerulff and G. W. Turner, assisted by Dr. W. R. Boone of San Francisco, were counting the hanged man's heartbeats with a stethoscope, and before they had declared him dead, E. J. Tehaney, a young real estate dealer in Oakland, fainted. He almost fell, to the floor before two guards caught him and bore him to an outer room, where he revived.

Among well known people who witnessed the execution were Sheriff Barnet of Oakland; Sheriff J. J. Keating of San Rafael; Captain J. K. Cleary, Dr. H. S. Morrison, Dr. G. F. Brackett all of the San Francisco county jail; Father Patrick Collopy of the St. Raphael's Catholic church and Father Marchislo of the San Quentin staff who chanted a prayer.

In his cell next to theirs at 10:30 this morning John Byrne, who was sentenced to be hanged today and whose sentence Governor Johnson commuted to life imprisonment, knelt down in prayer.  The crime for which Wilkins paid the extreme penalty this morning had all the other elements of tragedy. Vernle Carmin deserted her husband, L. L Carmin of Sheffield, Missouri in September, 1907.  She met Wilkins on a train while traveling west.  After living for a time in San Francisco they removed to Elmhurst, where Wilkins bought a cottage In April. 1907.  The woman disappeared in July and in November, a few days before Thanksgiving day, Wilkins was arrested for her murder, her body having been found in a deep grave beneath the stable.  

L. L. Carmin, her deserted husband, who was a witness at the trial, died two days after the verdict.  He identified her remains by a dentist's chart of her teeth.  He told of his wife's desertion, also of the jewels which she possessed.  The existence of the grave in the stable before the death of the victim was the most convincing argument against him. The jury debated but 15 minutes and then returned a verdict of murder in the first degree, without a recommendation for mercy. 

 

Wilkins was sentenced on August 25 and on August 28, 1908 entered San Quentin.  He made the boast upon entering the prison, "I will cheat the gallows one of these days and don't you forget it.  There are many other ways of dying besides dropping from the scaffold."   Warden Hoyle's suspicion was aroused and when the prisoner was searched in the bathroom.  A four inch penknife was found concealed on his person.   Mrs. Vernle Carmen, for whose death Mark A. Wilkins was sentenced to die was the daughter of Henry P. Lindeman a hotel  proprietor at Sheffield Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. She was the wife of Louis L. Carmen, a railroad engineer, from whom he had separated a year before her death.

Carmen thought his wife had been killed in a railroad wreck near Springfield, Missouri where he lived.  He learned that Wilkins was under arrest for the murder of a woman in California, he decided to go there and view the woman's body. Carmen identified the body as that of his wife by a dentist's chart that he took from Kansas City. He and his wife were never divorced.

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