Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Francis "Two Gun" Crowley

On Death Row

Newspaper clipping
Newspaper clipping

"Two-Gun" Crowley was one of the youngest convicts on Death Row at Sing Sing. Only 19, he looked more like 16. When he arrived on the morning of June 1, 1931, Warden Lawes said "he had about him the pompous air of bravado and a daredevil mentality." When he was searched that first day, a sharpened metal spoon was discovered in one of Crowley's socks. When asked what he intended to do with the weapon, Crowley replied simply, "Try and guess!" He refused to accept any guilt for the Hirsch murder and insisted he was innocent.

"I just defended myself," he told guards during processing into the prison. "That's all I did to get this deal!" he said.

Crowley chewed gum incessantly and wisecracked his way through the admissions procedure. His pint-sized stature belied his hostile and confrontational nature. Of course, his murderous reputation had preceded him, causing most of the other prisoners to keep their distance. He was assigned #84567. He immediately trashed his cell, destroying everything in sight. He broke up the furniture and threw the bedding out through the bars. Somehow, he managed to set a fire. He stuffed the toilet with clothes and caused a flood. As a result, he was forcibly removed from his cell and placed in solitary confinement. All items were eventually removed from his room. He was stripped naked and left alone 24 hours a day. A mattress was thrown in to him at night and removed in the morning. All meals were served to him in solitary. He had no contact with other prisoners.

After a few days, the teenager went through a transformation. A bird had flown into his cell and Crowley fed it. The bird returned and Crowley fed it again. Soon, he began to care for the bird and made it into a pet. The guard reported the incident to Lawes who decided to visit the boy. "He seemed none the worse for his caveman isolation," he said later. "His appearance was animal-like, but tamed...he promised he would be on good behavior if clothing were given to him and...if he could keep the bird," the warden said. "I consented."

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