On Jan. 6, 1881, Margaret Meierhoffer of West Orange, was executed by hanging in the Essex County Prison for the murder of her husband; she was the last woman executed by the state of New Jersey.

She was tried and convicted along with her accomplice, Frank Lammens, who worked as a handyman on the Meierhoffer farm in West Orange and was also presumed to be Margaret’s lover (the New York Times said he was “criminally intimate” with her). The deceased, John Meierhoffer, was shot in the back of the head with a pistol by Lammens and then his body was kicked down the cellar stairs.

After the crime was discovered, the two lovers turned on each other, blaming the other one for the murder; they had been found in bed together when police arrived, but Lammens claimed no knowledge of the crime, while Margaret said that Lammens had shot her husband and planned to cut off the head, burn the corpse, and then throw into the Passaic River.

She told authorities that Lammens held her in "mortal dread, preventing her from telling anyone.” They were arrested and tried together, but they had separate lawyers and did not mount a mutual defense. They were both found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. They were executed on the same gallows, about an hour apart from each other; according to an account of the time, “Both were jerked into the air by a falling weight and in neither case was the neck broken.”

Not another woman was executed by the state of New Jersey after that and capital punishment in the state was abolished in 2007.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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