Snake Killer Dies on Gallows

May 2, 1942, Comics

May 2, 1942, Rattlesnake James

May 2, 1942: Major Raymond Lisenba, better known as Robert S. “Rattlesnake” James, becomes the 214th and last person to be executed by hanging in California. James was hanged because the murder of his wife occurred in 1935, before the introduction of the gas chamber in 1937.

James tried to kill his wife by binding her and putting her leg into a box containing two rattlesnakes. Although she was bitten, the venom wasn’t fatal — or at least hadn’t taken effect, so James drowned her in a bathtub and placed her body face-down in a backyard fish pond. (And yes, drowning in the backyard pond makes me think of “Chinatown.”)

Rattlesnake James
May 2, 1942, Rattlesnake James

Rattlesnake James

May 2, 1942, Rattlesnake James

Mah 2, 1942, Rattlesnake James

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1942, Art & Artists, Comics, Crime and Courts, Homicide, World War II and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Snake Killer Dies on Gallows

  1. CatM says:

    This is fascinating! I knew about the murder but I didn’t realize it took place in La Canada. I’d never heard it mentioned when I was growing up. I wonder if the house is still there?


  2. eve says:

    Yow! Reminds me of the old Bert Savoy routine: “The captain was telling Margie and I about a man who took his wife boating and he threw her overboard–every time she’d come up, he’d hit her on the head with an oar! She’d come up and he’d hit her on the head! And Margie said, ‘Well, she was a fool to come up!'”


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