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Capital punishment

George Gee case, 1904

George Gee on Steps of Woodstock Jail, 1904 Left to right: Sheriff Foster, Benjamin Gee, George Gee, Chief of Police Owen Kelly, Zora Gee. Credit: Carleton Sentinel, April 29, 1904George Gee, 23, was hanged at Woodstock, NB in 1904, for shooting his cousin, Millie Gee. The motive was jealousy.

According to the press, no one in Woodstock would sell the hangman a length of rope for the noose, so the rope had to be ordered from another community.

Another newspaper account claimed that Gee's body was returned to his community, Kent parish, Carleton County, on a wagon with a quantity of alcohol that his friends had ordered for his wake.

A double hanging, 1909

Tony Arosha and Leon SepeppilIn late 1908, a Montreal-based Jewish peddlar, Patrick Green, was shot and killed near Beaver Brook, a rural area near Plaster Rock in rural Victoria County, New Brunswick.

Green's travelling companion escaped. The motive appeared to be robbery. The suspects were identified as two Italian labourers working for the Grand Trunk Pacific railroad.

The two men, Tony Arosha and Leon Sepeppil, were found guilty of murder in 1909 and hanged in May of that year. Tony was only 19 years of age.

John Oliver case, 1941

John Oliver was a 63-year old night watchman who had been born in Prince Edward Island and a father of eight children. Following a verbal altercation with a group of youth in Simonds parish, outside of Saint John, he had quarreled with Herb Lobb, a married solider who was on leave. Lobb had asked Oliver not to mistreat the boys.

Oliver later fetched a loaded revolver from his place or work and visited the Lobb residence, where he shot the soldier in front of his wife and child. Later Oliver turned himself in to the police, claiming that he had fired the gun only to frighten the victim, not kill him. He was placed on trial for murder and, unlike most New Brunswickers convicted for murder at this time, hanged. Oliver, despite being the breadwinner for a large family, was executed in December of 1941.

Clifford Ayles case, 1956

Clifford AylesIn October of 1955, a man high jacked the payroll van for the Saint John Tuberculosis Hospital as the driver prepared to leave the centre of the city. The robber, who entered the vehicle at Wasson's Drug Store on Charlotte Street, forced the driver to drive to a remote area of nearby Simond's parish, where he attacked its occupants.

The driver, Allison Graves, stabbed sixteen times, died. His passenger, hospital business manager Harold Cunningham, was shot in the head from behind and critically wounded. Cunningham, who had ran the payroll run for nearly forty years, did not witness the stabbing of Al Graves, as he was attacked first. But slipping in and out of consciousness he heard the other man screaming from the rear of the van. Later he found his co-worker's body on the ground outside. The robbery netted more than $11,000 in cash and bonds.

Left for dead, Cunningham survived and became the chief witness for the prosecution. He identified the suspect as Clifford Ayles, a 25-year old man from Atholville in northern New Brunswick.

Ayles had been a patient in the hospital in 1953 and 1954. Following an extensive manhunt, the suspect was arrested in a tavern in Phoenix, Arizona in December where he had been living in motels. After extradition proceedings, he was returned by airplane to New Brunswick where he faced trial for murder.

He was found guilty in June of 1956 and sentenced to be hanged. Appeals to the Appeal Division of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick and to the Supreme Court of Canada provided fruitless, and the federal cabinet refused to commute the sentence to life in penitentiary.

In November of 1956, Ayles reported went to the gallows calmly. The task was carried out in the Saint John county jail by an executioner from Quebec.

Clifford Ayles was the last person to be hanged in Saint John. Joseph Pierre Richard, convicted of the murder and sexual assault of a 13-year old girl, was the last person executed in New Brunswick.

He was hanged at Dalhousie, Restigouche County, in late 1957. After 1962, all executions in Canada effectively ceased, but capital punishment was not removed from the Canadian Criminal Code until 1976.