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October 18, 1672 - Thomas Rood Executed By Hanging For The Crime Of Incest - Today In Crime History

On this day, October 18, in the year 1672, Thomas Rood was executed in Norwich, Connecticut for committing the crime of incest with his adult daughter.  Incest is generally defined as sexual intercourse between close relatives, though the exact definition and the degree of biological relationship, varies between individual states.

Criminally charged along with his daughter Sarah in 1672, Thomas Rood allegedly confessed to his incestuous sexual relationship, from which their son George was born.  Though the written laws of the colony said nothing about incest, the Hartford Court inquired of local clergy about the propriety of such incestuous activity between adults and determined that the death penalty was appropriate .  

Upon Rood’s plea of guilty the Court ruled as follows:

not haveing the feare of God before thine eyes thou hast committed that abominable sin of incest haveing carnall copulation with Sarah Rhood thy reputed daughter for which according to the law of God & the law of this colony thou deservest to dye … [Note: misspelled as it appears in the original text of court archives]

Historical records indicate that only ten days elapsed between his trial and his execution by hanging.  Thomas Rood was the only individual to be executed for the crime of incest between adults in Connecticut’s history.   

The Hartford Court was not comfortable, however, with the imposition of a death sentence upon the daughter who was 23 years of age in 1672.  The sentencing decision for her was delayed until May of 1673, at which time the court announced that they had taken “notice of a great appearance of force layd up upon her spirit by her father overaweing [her] and .....  abuse of his parentall authority .... which .... brought her into the snare but allso in after yeilding to his Temptation.”  The Court concluded that this “ kind of forceing to a person so ignorant and weak in  mind .... doe render her not equally Guilty but that as the fathers fault was much aggravated so the child’s is exceedingly mitigated”  [Note: misspelled as it appears in the original text of court archives]

Having seemingly found the daughter to be a rape victim, the court extended leniency and sentenced her to a public lashing as follows:

The sentence of the court is that shee be severly whipt on the naked body once at Hartford & once at Norwich that others may heare & fear & do no more such abominable wickednesse. [Note: misspelled as it appears in the original text of court archives]

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