George Wiggins Sentenced to Life
On October 31, 1912, George Wiggins attended his trial for the murder of St. Louis Police Officer Louis Schnarr in June 1912. Nonchalantly chewing gum, 21-year-old Wiggins appeared totally oblivious to the seriousness of the trial. Wiggins plead guilty to the murder with the hope of receiving 25 years in prison. However, Judge Withrow was considering the death penalty.
Wiggins initially intended to plead guilty due to insanity but changed to a straight guilty plea. Wiggins’ youth, solid family background and obvious mental illness may have saved him from the hangman. After careful deliberation, Judge Withrow sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
Wiggins remained unfazed by the verdict. As his sisters sobbed throughout the trial, Wiggins chewed gum, whistled and cracked jokes. “It’s a happy day for me-why not? I’ve never felt better.”
Wiggins’ brother Charles and his sisters, Estelle and Mary, sat in the gallery. When Judge Withrow contemplated the death penalty, Estelle and Mary burst in to tears. When he settled on life in prison, an upset but relieved Charles led his sisters from the courtroom.
George Wiggins was sent to the Missouri Penitentiary, where he would serve twelve years. On February 8, 1924, George Wiggins was sent to the State Hospital #1 in Fulton, Missouri. Wiggins spent the next 34 years confined to the hospital.
Sometime in the mid-1950s, Wiggins developed skin cancer. Wiggins would die from the effects of a malignant facial tumor on April 12, 1958. Wiggins, who was born on December 22, 1890, was dead at 67 years of age.
George Wiggins should have been confined to the State Hospital from the time of the murder. Wiggins showed signs of mental illness as early as 1903, when he was 12 years old. However, the treatment of mental illness, particularly for criminal activity, was not as well understood as it is today.
Regardless of what happened to George Wiggins, Louis Schnarr’s wife and children were still deprived of their husband and father in the prime of his life. Louis Schnarr’s death was the true tragedy in the case of George Wiggins.
Sources: The Saint-Louis Post-Dispatch, October 31, 1912 edition, p. 1 and Missouri Death Certificate Database