Whether to live vicariously through them or to gawk at their shocking stories, Americans have always been fascinated with criminals. Below is a list of the most notorious criminals to have come out of the state of Virginia:
1) The Martinsville Seven: A group of seven African-American men were executed for the rape of a white woman in 1951. The rape occurred on January 8, 1949 and the seven men were arrested within the following days. The seven men were executed through the use of an electric chair and is one of the largest mass executions for the crime of rape. This case still carries much controversy even today because of this large number and also because, for much of Virginia's history, only blacks could be executed for a rape conviction. It is chilling to think that since Virginia began using the electric chair in 1908, 45 men had been sentenced to death for rape - all of which were black men charged with raping white women. The day before the youngest of the seven men was executed, he stated, "God knows I didn't touch that woman and I'll see ya'll on the other side."
2) Timothy Wilson Spencer: Spencer, also known as the Southside Strangler, was the first murderer in the United States to be convicted on the basis of DNA evidence. In turn, David Vasquez was the first to be exonerated after a conviction because of DNA evidence. Spencer committed four rape/murders in the fall of 1987, along the murder for which David Vasquez was wrongfully convicted.
3) George Huguely V: Two weeks before graduation, Huguely was charged with the murder of his fellow University of Virginia student, Yeardley Love. A lacrosse and football player, Huguely was a young man born to privilege with a classic all-American appeal. Huguely and Love had dated briefly but had broken up after Huguely had assaulted her. Following their break up, Huguely sent Love numerous threatening messages. The night of the murder, Huguely kicked open Love's bedroom door and violently shook Love, slamming her head repeatedly against the wall. Detectives found love had suffered an alcohol overdose with obvious physical injuries to her body. With all the potential in the world, Huguely was the last person anyone would have suspected of having such rage within him.
4) Earl Washington, Jr.: Frequently cited by those who oppose the death penalty, Washington's case began when he was falsely imprisoned for rape and murder. Washington had been coerced by investigators into confession to the crime. Joseph Giarratano, a fellow inmate, took on Washington's case, pointing to Washington's mental disability of an IQ of 69. DNA evidence showed that Washington was wrongly accused of the crime. Right before his execution, he was granted clemency by the governor of Virginia and was sentenced to life in prison. Later, a more advanced DNA test was used, which later allowed Washington to be granted a full pardon for the crimes.
5) Virginia Tech Massacre: In 2007, a senior at Virginia tech, Seung-Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 people while wounding 17 others in two attacks. Afterwards, Cho committed suicide. The massacre prompted heavy discussions on gun restrictions and privacy laws. At the time of the shooting, it was the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.
Check out our Maryland blog to read more about Maryland's most notorious criminals.