The Case of George J. Hassell

A smiling George Hassell.

A smiling George Hassell.

While staring at a picture of George Jefferson Hassell one can't help but immediately think of how happy this individual seems. A beaming and extended smile is the focal point, a row of perfect straight teeth greet the camera and an overwhelming aura of pride is exuded from the man in the picture. Donning a white shirt and overalls, he appears to be a happy man in high spirits.

These are all assumptions based on nothing more then the picture and the truth is George was far from what the image portrayed in the photograph. George had some problems. He had a bad temper. George would get angry and take his aggression out on those closest to him. This could manifest itself in different ways, many of which were quite heinous but ultimately ending with an irreversible act; familicide or the murder of George's entire family.

George’s story begins in a small Texas town known as Smithville in July of 1888. The youngest of 8 children, and from an early age George seemed to be straying away from the straight and narrow. While in his teens he allegedly got a woman pregnant and abandoned her. Shortly thereafter George joined the Merchant Marines where again he abandoned responsibility, leaving his assigned post. A string of short lived marriages would follow his trail until he found himself in Whittier, CA in 1917.

While in Whittier, he met and married a woman named Marie Vogel. This union produced 3 children and suddenly without warning, the family disappeared. George told curious neighbors that his wife had left him and took the children to San Francisco. This was apparently a believable story as his neighbors didn't question him and with that, George made his escape. The exact date of his departure is unknown however some time later the bodies of his family would be discovered underneath the family home.

George would eventually find his way back to Texas, a town known as Farwell. George continued his life and again trouble followed. His brother was killed, dead from an alleged mule kick to the head. George was witness to the accident and afterwards found himself taking up his brother's role in caring for his family. He married his brother's widow, Susan Ferguson, which was common practice for the time.

There was not much in the way of how successful the marriage was but one could only imagine that it was not a perfect match for on December 5th, 1926 the couple began to argue over George's alleged involvement with his underaged stepdaughter. Susan would not allow this type of behavior to continue but Susan misinterpreted just how cruel and low George could sink. During the argument George struck Susan in the head with a ball peen hammer. He struck her again, and again, and again until she lay there dead.

After the murder of his wife, George knew that he had no way out and decided to attempt to cover up the crime as best as he could. He also decided to kill the entire family. It's not entirely clear why he chose to kill the rest of the family. Maybe it came naturally to him after his previous failed marriage.

George went from room to room killing all 8 of his brother's kids through various means; straight razors to throats, strangulation with stockings, bludgeoning skulls with axes and firings from shotguns. When all was said and done, 9 people lay dead in the Hassell home. The victim's ages ranged from 2-41. George dragged each body into a newly dug root cellar where George hoped they would remain undiscovered until he had time to formulate his escape.

George decided he should leave town after his second committal of familicide but needed money to leave. He began exclaiming that his wife Susan had taken the kids back to Oklahoma and that he would be selling all that was left of the farm. Many did not believe this story as surely Susan or the kids would have said goodbye to their neighbors. Suspicion grew so much so that the local law enforcement eventually showed up and shortly there after all 9 corpses were discovered in the root cellar. After the discovery George simply said “I did it!”

George also attempted suicide but survived it so that he would stand trial for his crimes. After a psychiatric evaluation it was discovered that George was a sociopath. George was found guilty of his crimes and handed down the death penalty. On February 10th, 1928, George J. Hassell was strapped into the electric chair. The switch was flipped and electricity coursed through his body until he sat their, a smoldering mound.