►“I’ll buy you a car if you help me kill your Uncle Robert,” Mary Carey told her sons.◄
A relative of the Carey family who has studied the case has been kind enough to point out that the name given by newspapers in two versions "Kitchens" and "Hutchins" are erroneous. The correct name is Hitchens. The detailed and valuable note left by this commenter has been added to this post below.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Georgetown, Del. – A mother and her son are to die on the gallows here on June 7.
Mrs. May Carey, 52, and her oldest child, Howard, 27, are to be executed for the murder of the woman’s brother.
The case is one of the strangest in the annals of police history. The murder took place in 1927, but it was not until last December authorities discovered who was responsible for the crime.
Atty. Gen. P. Warren Green outlining the case to the United Press, said the plot centered around the Carey family, who planned to collect $2,000 life insurance upon the death of Robert H. Kitchens [sic; should be Hitchens], Frankford, Del.
~ Laid in Wait. ~
The original plan of Mrs. Carey, according to testimony, was for the mother and two of her three sons to conceal themselves in Kitchens’ [sic] home, waiting for the automobile mechanic to return home from work. They took with them a bottle of whiskey, a white oak club and a sledge hammer.
Kitchens [sic] was struck, on the head by Howard Casey as he entered his house. The man, half stunned, attempted to flee but Mrs. Carey, Howard and another son, James, 23, attacked the man.
Authorities charged that Mrs. Carey beat her brother to death with the sledge hammer. She then opened the man’s mouth and poured whiskey down his throat. Whiskey was poured on his clothing and glasses were shattered on the floor.
~ Hid Murder Weapon. ~
Mrs. Carey and her sons then returned to their home at Georgetown, burned their clothes and hid the sledge in a woods.
Two days later Kitchens [sic] was “found” dead by Howard, who told police he had been looking for his uncle, whom he had not seen for several days.
Police worked on a theory that Kitchens [sic] had been killed by robbers and until six months ago this was the only probable solution of the crime.
Meantime, Mrs. Carey collected about $900 insurance, the remainder; of the policy going to settle the estate and funeral costs.
Then came the break.
Lawrence, youngest son of Mrs. Carey, was arrested for housebreaking.
He was questioned about the death of Kitchens [sic] and finally made a confession.
Mrs. Carey and her three sons were immediately, arrested. On April 26 the woman, Howard and James were convicted for first degree murder with a jury recommendation for “mercy.”
James, who was but 16 years old at the time of the crime, was given a life imprisonment sentence. Mrs. Carey and Howard were sentenced to death. Lawrence, who was only 14 years old then, was not implicated as he testified he had only heard his mother and brothers plot the crime.
The trial of Mrs. Carey and her sons lasted but one day. The woman said she was “all to blame” and that she hAd forced her sons to assist her, promising Howard a new automobile for his aid.
Chief Justice Daniel J. Layton, who imposed the sentences, characterized the crime as the “most vicious in the criminal annals of Delaware.” Mrs. Carey and Howard are now in “murderer’s row” of the Sussex County jail. Her friends are making a last minute effort to have the. State Pardon Board commute their sentences to life imprisonment.
~ Sets Record. ~
Mrs. Carey will be the first white woman to be executed in Delaware history. About 50 years ago Sarah Bradley, a Negress, was hanged for giving a white child a solution with sulphur matches in it. There is a tale that in 1731 a white woman was burned at the stake for the murder of her husband. Sussex County jailyard, where the two are to be hanged, is an open courtyard. Since hanging must be in private, witnessed only by a jury and newspapermen, a board enclosure will be built around the scaffold.
The gallows are now stored at the workhouse near Wilmington and will be brought here, 90 miles, by truck. The prison where the woman and her son are confined is a new building, that looks more like a country schoolhouse than a prison, with a touch of colonial architecture.
[Joseph S. Wasney, “Mother, Son Will Hang for Insurance Murder,” syndicated (UP), The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wi.), May 28, 1935, part 2, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Georgetown, Del., June 7 – A mother and her son were executed on the same gallows at dawn today.
They were: Mrs. May K. Carey, 55; her eldest son, Howard, 27. They murdered Mrs. Carey’s brother, Robert R. Hutchins [sic; should be Hitchens], for his insurance. Another of her sons, James, 23, is serving life. He was an accomplice. Her third son, Lawrence, 21, is in jail for burglary.
The executions took place in the yard of Sussex county prison where Lawrence is confined.
From the trap, Mrs. Carey called in a loud voice:
“My way is clear. I have nothing else to say.”
The mask was tied over her face, the noose adjusted, and at 5:07 a. m. (EST) the trap dropped. Seventeen minutes later she was pronounced dead.
Like his mother, Howard mounted the 13 gallows steps without assistance. On the trap, he licked his lips, and said in a trembling voice:
‘‘What I did was against my will. I feel sure and one in my place would have done the same thing. I hope to “see my little ones on the other side.”
He mumbled a prayer while the hangman’s assistant, waited, the death mask in his hand. Howard finished, the mask was tied across his face, and at 5:41 a. m. he dropped. He was pronounced dead at 6:08.
~ Last Farewell. ~
Wednesday night Mrs. Carey paid her last farewell to her sons, James and Lawrence. Handcuffed together, they were permitted to stand in the corridor and converse with their mother and brother. James was returned to another prison where he is serving life, Lawrence to his cell in the same jail where his mother and brother were executed.
Twelve farmers witnessed the executions. The portable oak gallows, used for all executions in Delaware, was set up in the jail yard and screened by a high board fence. It was roofed with canvas to prevent aerial photography.
Brief funeral services and burial immediately followed execution. The bodies ware placed in gray caskets and conveyed to the cemetery in one hearse Mrs. Carey was born and spent her girlhood in the nearby town of Omar; her aged mother still lives there.
Complying with one of her last requests, the procession moved past her mother’s home where it was joined by Mrs. Myra Carey, Howard’s widow and their three children, Margaret Ann, 5. Clifford, 3, and Howard. Jr., one.
Mrs. Carey was considered one of the countrysides most beautiful girls 35 years ago. She was left a widow while still young. Her father was a sea captain. Seven years ago her brother was found dead in his home. He had been beaten and shot. The crime was listed as unsolved.
A year ago Lawrence was arrested for housebreaking. He inadvertently told police that his mother and two brothers had killed his uncle for a $2,100 insurance policy.
Lawrence, from his cell, could hear the thud of the gallows’ trap. Guards said he prayed all night. James, in Neswcastle jail, spent the night on his knees. One of the last acts of Howard’s life was the composition of admonitory letters to his brothers, urging them to feel blameless lives and to forsake, among other things, the use of tobacco.
[“Mother And Son And Three Members Of Millen Bandit Gang Executed - Gallows And Chair Exact Their Toll - Mrs. May Carey and Eldest Son Hanged in Delaware While Notorious Millen Brothers and Another Member of Gang Are Put to Death in Massachusetts.” Logansport Pharos Tribune (Ind.), Jun. 7, 1935, p. 1]
For similar cases, see Murder-Coaching Moms
Comment by Kim Carey, August 10, 2016
I am the first wife of the son of Howard Jr. I went with my ex husband Richard to Delaware in 2000 and investigated the family and the murder. The brother of May was named Robert Hitchens, not Kitchens or Hutchins. May and Howard were buried in an unmarked plot at a church in Delaware. Since they were criminals they were not given any place in the cemetery and no head stones. We met a man who had been a child when the murders happened in the same town. As a child, May had babysat him and tried to smother him with a pillow. He followed the story closely and gave us a ton of information.
May was considered to be crazy in the town and often fought with her bachelor brother Robert about money and the inheritance they had to split when their parents died. When most women in town were poor and literally wearing burlap clothing, May would often walk down the street in expensive dresses with her nose in the air. Howard said when he was caught that he only helped his mother kill his Uncle, whom he was very fond of, because "you don't go against your Mother". May had threatened that if Howard did not help her, she would have her other son James kill Howard.
The night of the murder, she went home and woke young Lawrence up, who had been left home while they had done the awful deed, and gloated how the murder went and that they would be getting new things including his brother a car, then she burned their bloody clothes in the fireplace. It took 7 years to solve the crime, in which time Howard married Myra and had 3 children. I was shocked beyond belief to discover all of this.
The family Howard left behind, wife Myra and 3 little children, moved to Dover. She was murdered a couple of years later. One of the children, Howard Jr. had been my ex husband's father. The children had been left to be raised in an orphanage after their mother Myra was murdered by a jealous boyfriend. Even though there were family to take them, it was believed that murdering tendencies were genetic and the family wanted to distance themselves from the offspring of Howard. Howard Jr. would never speak of his childhood, and lied to his wife Donna saying his parents died in a car accident. The only reason I was ever able to get to the truth was through the wife of Cliff. She and I started to write to each other in the early 1980's, she in Florida and I in California, and she told me there had been a murder but Cliff wouldn't talk about it either. I never met either of them in person.
My ex had never met his uncle and the sister of the 3, Margaret was dead. By the time I met Richard, his father Howard had been dead from a heart attack at age 42. Very oddly enough, when I finally found all of this out I had 4 children with him, 2 of which I had inadvertently named Erica May, and James Howard. I wonder if reincarnation is real?? Richard was also Howard senior's middle name. Spooky.
For similar cases, see Murder-Coaching Moms