Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Stone Upon Stone: Sing Sing Prison

The Ravisher: Edward Haight

One of the most reviled killers to ever sit on death row at Sing Sing was a teenager. His name was Edward Haight. His shocking story, which generated national headlines in the autumn of 1942, began in the tranquil village of Bedford in Westchester County. On September 15, 1942, two girls, Margaret Lynch, 7, and her sister Helen, 9 were seen getting into a Ford station wagon that was reported stolen in nearby Stamford, Connecticut. They were never seen alive again. By late night, a massive search for the missing girls was conducted in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Hundreds of cops and volunteers, armed with shotguns, rifles and clubs scoured the countryside. Police investigation revealed that several other children had observed the same station wagon cruising in the area.

Edward Haight

Soon, police located a young woman who said she was driving on the Merritt Parkway earlier that day when she experienced a scary incident with another motorist. She told police that a young man who was driving a Ford station wagon had forced her over to the side of the road. When she asked him what he wanted. The man replied, "I want you!" As the suspect tried to assault her, the woman's dogs, who were in the back of her car, tried to bite him. The man jumped back into his car and sped away. But she was able to provide police with a description.

The very next day, a Connecticut state trooper was driving along a road in north Stamford when he observed Edward Haight, 16, drive by in a small truck. The Haight family was well known to the police since they had many run-ins with local cops. When Haight was pulled over, police found a gas ration book from the stolen Ford station wagon in his pocket. He was taken into custody and soon confessed to the murder of both Lynch sisters.

Newspaper headline on the day Edward Haight was arrested by police. From <em>The New York Daily News</>, September 16, 1942
Newspaper headline on the day
Edward Haight was arrested by
police. From The New York
Daily News, September 16, 1942

Edward Haight took cops to the place where he disposed of the little girls after he tried to rape them. Helen's body was fished out of the Kensico Reservoir. Margaret had been strangled and her body was located in the woods near the reservoir. "I put a handkerchief in Margaret's mouth to stop her from screaming," he said. When he tried to rape her, the little girl fought and Haight mutilated her with a large hunting knife. With the body still in his car and Helen tied up in the trunk, he cruised into the village of Bedford to get some food. Haight then drove to a deserted wooded area and sexually assaulted Helen. He then placed the terrified girl under the car and drove over her several times, killing her. "I threw her off the bridge into the creek," Haight said, just as an ambulance drove by on its way to an unrelated car accident. Then he abandoned the stolen car in nearby Stamford and walked home.

Haight was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and locked up in the Bedford jail. At his arraignment the next day, Haight smiled and showed no remorse. He was talkative to reporters and freely gave out details of the crimes. On September 24, Haight pleaded not guilty in White Plains County Court. "It was hard to believe that the coverall-clad, black-haired youth was Edward Haight, self-confessed ravisher and slayer of two small Bedford girls 10 days ago in brutal crimes that rocked the nation!" said a story in a local newspaper.

A newspaper story on the day of Haight's execution. From The Citizen Register, July 8, 1943.
A newspaper story on the day of
Haight's execution. From The
Citizen Register, July 8, 1943.

During the trial, which opened on October 29, both the prosecution and defense psychiatrists offered conflicting opinions on the defendant's sanity. Haight had a wretched upbringing and lived in a place that was "as bad as a shack on a public dump" said one attorney. Meanwhile, the teenage killer alternately grinned, smiled and twiddled his thumbs in the courtroom. When the prosecutor held up photographs of the dead girls for the jurors, Haight actually broke out into a laugh. On November 5, Haight was found guilty of first-degree murder. "Edward Haight, still amused and apparently proud of his brutal, cold-blooded murder of two little girls, started down the last mile of his short life," said the Citizen's Register newspaper. Deliberations lasted less than one hour. As the guilty verdict was read, Haight smiled broadly at the jury. When his father came over to talk to him, Edward shrugged his shoulders and said "So what?"

He was taken immediately over to death row in Sing Sing. Ironically, Edward's father, Arnold Haight, once did four years at Sing Sing for a burglary back in 1932. Over the next eight months, Edward maintained an ongoing attitude of bravado and indifference. He lay in his bunk most of the day and spoke to almost no one. He ate vigorously though and gained over 50 pounds on prison food. When asked if he wanted anything, Edward said to the guards, "I'm not asking for nothing!"

But when he was interviewed on the day of his execution, he told reporters: "I was a fool. I don't know why I did it. I'm pretty sure this is my last day. And I'm only 17!" On July 8, 1943, he became the youngest person to be executed in Sing Sing's electric chair. His father was unable to claim his body and Edward Haight was buried in a plot of quick lime in nearby Peekskill.