Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alfred Packer: The Maneater of Colorado

The Maneater's Last Days

After serving 16 years in prison, Packer made a petition for parole. His case was reviewed and parole was denied. A reporter at the Denver Post, Polly Pry, grew interested in his case and believed he was innocent. She began a campaign for Packer's release, and with the paper's support, got the attention of the governor.

Polly Pry, portrait
Polly Pry, portrait

Packer made another application for parole, based on his deteriorating physical condition, and in 1901, the parole was approved. The prison physician had certified that Packer was suffering from Bright's Disease, which made further confinement dangerous in terms of its aggravating factors. In addition, Packer had persuaded prominent men around the state, notably reporters and the owners of the Denver Post, to sign a petition on his behalf. The owners believed they could get Packer to be a side-show freak in the Sells-Floto Circus for their profit.

The governor had not changed his mind about the offenses, so Packer was not pardoned, but he did see warrant in permitting him to be released from imprisonment.

Alfred Packer in 1901, after release
Alfred Packer in 1901, after
release

He went to Denver and worked at the newspaper as a guard, but city life did not please him, so he moved to Deer Creek Canyon in Jefferson County. Yet he did not have long to enjoy his freedom. His final years were spent managing two mines and telling children the stories of his adventures as he dealt with his liver and stomach ailments. Many said that he was a nice old man.

Late in 1906, a state game warden found Packer unconscious a mile from his home, and for the few months that remained to him, he came into the care of a Mrs. Van Alstine. Just before he died on April 24, 1907, from a stroke (listed as "senility — trouble & worry"), he wrote a letter to the governor to request a full pardon. No action was taken. Buried in Littleton, Colorado, at Prince Avenue Cemetery, Lot 65, he had (and continued to gain) many supporters who believed that he was a victim of circumstance and had killed other men because he was starving — although at both of his trials, he himself had eschewed this claim.

Warden C.P. Hoyt
Warden C.P. Hoyt

He was buried at government expense, because he was considered a military veteran and for years had received a disability pension of $25 a month — for which he had filed from prison claiming his epilepsy had derived from his stint in the military.

The military also paid for a tombstone, which read, "Alfred Packer, Co. F. 16 U.S. Inf."

According to the Littleton, Colorado newspaper, the Independent, Packer's last words before he died were, "I'm not guilty of the charge."

Years after the fact, in 1928 (or 1968), the citizens of Lake City erected a monument for the victims and threw a community fish fry. Exactly where the victims had been buried, however, proved to be a source of some contention.

In 1981, Governor Lamm denied Judge Kushner's posthumous pardon of Alfred Packer. Then in 1989, an event occurred that drew the nation's attention back to this man.

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