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December 20, 1786, Twelve Year Old Girl Executed In Connecticut - Today In Crime History

On this day, December 20, in the year 1786, twelve year old Hannah Ocuish, a Pequot Indian, was executed by hanging in New London, Connecticut, for murdering Eunice Bolles, a six year old white girl.

Hannah Ocuish was the twelve year old daughter of an alcoholic Pequot Indian and an unknown white man.  Various historians have also described her as mentally retarded.  It is difficult to get a clear picture of Hannah’s life from available sources, but it is likely that she suffered from poverty and neglect.

On July 21, 1786, the body of six year old Eunice Bolles, the daughter of a prominent white family, was found on the side of a rode between New London and Norwich, Connecticut.  The child’s corpse displayed signs of extreme trauma. The child’s head and body were mangled in a shocking manner; her back and one arm was broken, and a number of heavy stones had been placed on her body, arms and legs.

During the investigation that followed that day, neighbors were questioned and, eventually, Hannah Ocuish was asked if she knew anything about what had happened.  Hannah denied involvement, but said she had seen a group of boys on the road earlier in the day.  Town officials were unable to located the killer.  At some point, officials learned that five weeks earlier, the deceased child had accused Hannah of stealing strawberries and that they had quarreled.  On July 22, Hannah was questioned again and repeatedly denied involvement.  Still unconvinced,  investigators took Hannah to the house where the body lay, showed her the corpse and accused her of killing the child.  Available records indicate that Hannah eventually started crying and confessed that she killed Eunice Bolles.

At her trial in October 1786, Hannah appeared detached and unconcerned about the proceedings. There is no record of Hannah being represented by a criminal defense lawyer at her trial.  Hannah’s confession, was accepted as truth by the court and she was convicted of murder.  The Court ordered that Hannah should be executed as her sentence.

On December 20, 1786, the Sheriff of New London, Connecticut, led a distraught and fearful 12-year-old girl to the gallows.  A rope was placed around Hannah’s neck and she was hanged in front of a crowd of spectators.  

Sources and more information:

Death Penalty for Juveniles, by Victor L. Streib (Indiana University Press, 1987)

1786: Hannah Ocuish, age 12,

DeathQuest: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Capital Punishment in the United States, by Robert M. Bohm, (Elsevier, Aug 15, 2011)

Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture, by Victoria E. Bonnell, Lynn Avery Hunt, Richard Biernacki (University of California Press, 1999)

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