Aug. 5, 1947: Hitchhiking Couple Confess to ‘Kiss of Death’ Murder

Aug. 5, 1947, Joseph L. Hardy Jr.

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

“Last Wednesday, I killed a man.”

Joseph stood tall for the news photographers, with his wife, Lois, by his side, a shock of hair swept down over his forehead, but otherwise neat and trim. They look like somebody’s parents in an old photo at your childhood friend’s house.

“Last Wednesday, I killed a man,” Joseph told the padre at Clark County Jail in Nevada. He was 24, from North Kittery, Maine, and had been kicked out of the service. She was 21, from New London, Conn.

They were hitchhiking around the country when they got a ride from James W. McLain, a 48-year-old VA employee who lived—depending on news reports—in either San Fernando, Glendale or Burbank, and was driving by himself to Canada for a vacation.

It’s not clear where they crossed paths. Maybe Grass Valley, Calif., or over the line in Nevada. Apparently they pulled off somewhere in the woods and Joseph excused himself for a while. Lois passed the time with James by kissing him. That way he wouldn’t notice when Joseph came back to shoot him. Three bullets to the head.

They wrapped James in an Indian blanket and buried him outside Truckee, and took his car and his $200 to Reno. They drank and gambled the night away, then left for Las Vegas and got married the next day. On Friday, full of champagne and whiskey, they headed for Texas, but Joseph fell asleep and flipped the car.
Joseph hitchhiked to Boulder City and told his story to police. They found Lois with the wreck. Unable to explain how they got James’ car, they were held by police.

Then at a jail worship service, Joseph calmly said: “Last Wednesday, I killed a man.”

Joseph L. Hardy Jr. and Lois Hunt were convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. She was sentenced to the gas chamber in the “Kiss of Death Murder,” although her name doesn’t appear among the 32 people executed by the state of Nevada.

Joseph and Lois originally confessed to three murders, but eventually admitted they invented two of them to “glamorize” themselves.

“I wanted to look more of a hero,” Joseph said. “Just one killing made me look like a sissy.”

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Crime and Courts, Homicide and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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