Michigan Flag
Michigan Flag


Name: Tony Chebatoris - Location: - Midland MI   - Date: - Oct. 1937
Execution (Federal Government) Blotter
AGE 38
DATE July 8, 1938

What the Narc’s were claiming
In Midland, Michigan, a man named Chebatoris confessed to bank robbery and murder.   Though Michigan has no provision for capital punishment, Chebatoris was sentenced to death under Federal law and was later executed at Milan, Michigan, prison farm.   A "reefer" addict, he testified to smoking two marihuana cigarettes before "pulling the job."   -- “Assassin of Youth” (Book) 1954 By Robert Devine

In Midland, Michigan, a man named Chebatoris confessed to bank robbery and murder.   Though Michigan has no provision for capital punishment, Chebatoris was sentenced to death under Federal law and was later executed at Milan, Michigan, prison farm.   A "reefer" addict, he testified to smoking two marihuana cigarettes before "pulling the job."   -- Moloch Of Marihuana (1945) Robert James Devine

A man in Michigan was executed at the prison farm for robbery and murder.   He, a reefer addict, said that he smoked two marihuanas before "pulling the job."   – Enemies Of Youth ( Book) 1939
Hammond Times - No Mention Of Marihuana is made??
Oct 28, 1937 pp5 – “Bank Bandit is Identified”
Oct 20, 1937 pp4 – Federal Jury Indicts First Robber-Killer Under New U.S. Law”
Nov. 4, 1937 pp18 – Federal Jury Indicts First Robber-Killer Under New U.S. Law”
Dec. 1, 1937 pp2 -
APPLETON POST-CRESCENT - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 8, 1938 pp.2 – Federal Execution of Robber-Killer Is First in Michigan in 108 Years.
THE CHARLEROI MAIL - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Oct 29, 1937 – pp1 – “Suicide Try by County Man in Michigan Jail”
DAILY TRIBUNE – Wisconsin Rapids
Oct. 29, 1937 pp3 – “Bank Robber Tries Suicide”
Nov. 3, 1937 – pp3 – “Justice Dep’t. in Quandary Over Robber’s Execution”
July 9, 1938 – pp1 “Execution in Michigan Held Despite Protest”
EVENING SENTINEL – Holland Michigan
Feb. 3, 1937 pp9- “Michigan Was First To Abolish Death Penalty”
IRONWOOD DAILY GLOBE – Ironwood Michigan
Nov. 9, 1937 pp1. “Find Chebatoris Could Be Put to Death in Michigan”
Nov. 10, 1937 pp1. “Robber Is Given Death Sentence”
Nov. 1, 1937 pp1 “Chebatoris is Taken to Detention Farm”

[Key-finder - Case#MI03None]

ABOUT TONY CHEBATORIS - The Legend and the Myth

From the Book

“I Saw Him Die”
A minister in Detroit, Michigan, writes:
“. . . it was five minutes past midnight . . . tow husky guards stood grimed, with lips tightly drawn in the tiny chamber of the death cell.
This boy is waiting to led up the “Thirteen Steps” to be executed for murder which he committed while under the influence of the deadly Marijuana Cigarette.  Some Mother’s Boy!
“At home, a broken-hearted mother, through her tears, was trying to understand and unravel the strange actions of her son.  What had changed his sunny disposition?   The misery and shame now coming to her home---this honest fine little lad---began to steal.  Then there were stretches in jail.  When he would get out, more stealing and robberies.

“The little mother never knew until it was too late---her wonderful little boy had become an abject slave, held in the vice-like grip of this Octopus of Hell.

Strapped To The Chair!
“The eyes of a score of newspaper men and official witnesses were fixed on a small steel door at one side of the little room.  The door opened and a white faced, scared youngster, scarcely out of his teens was helped, almost dragged, to that strange looking throne of death.

“With lightning skill the guards strapped him into the chair, adjusted the electrodes to his right leg and head and then stepped back.

“The sheriff with face drawn by the strain that always accompanied such responsibility stood near and as the guards stepped away, he raised the forefinger of his right hand and an unseen executioner threw the switch that sent the current of the death, racing through the body of the condemned.  The body lurched violently against the straps and clamps as the 1900 volts of electricity burned the last vestige of life from it.

“A curly of smoke rose from the electrode covering the top of the head and the sickening, nauseating odor of burning flesh filled the room.  A second shock, this time only 600 volts, to ensure the death was certain and the body was lifted from the mechanism of justice eight minutes and nine seconds, from the time the death march began.”

Good Time Leads Downward
This was the beautiful little curly-headed baby boy a mother had loved and builded her hopes and dreams---this bright-eyed boy, raised by a good mother in a good home.

He had gone out for a GOOD TIME with some of his young friends.  Then with a desire to be smart, had taken a Marijuana cigarette (a reefer).   And soon, from that one first time, he had acquired a most deadly habit---and while suffering from a crazed brain, caused by smoking this deadly weed, had shot an officer of the law in the pursuit of his duty.

Remember, dear reader, boys or girls or adults, “DOPE” is no respecter of persons.   It may be you, or your son or daughter may be the next victim.
Not that it matters too much, but Tony Chebatoris was:   Hanged not electrocuted and was 38 years of age at the time.   Moral of this story -- Don’t believe too much of what you read in those “True Detective Type” magazines.

TONY CHEBATORIS TRIVIA EveningNews1938-07-08p1

While in life he may have been a looser, his death was bound to leave his legacy as a legend.   Granted an annoying sort of one, but a legend never-the-less.   For in death, or actually a bit before that --- He would become known as “The Man They couldn’t Figure Out How to Kill.”   And that’s a literal not a figurative.

The story (as told) actually began some 82-years earlier, when the State of Michigan, for good or for bad, abolished the death penalty.   Sort of like that song line from the rock-opera Jesus Christ Super Star;  ---“We have no Law to put a man to death.

Okay, now let’s move the clock forward some eight years or so, to the Tony Chebatoris case.   It appears he fell through the cracks by violating both a Federal as well as a State Law at the same time, thus making eligible for the death penalty.   But . . . . here was the problem.   It appears that (there being no one to execute for well over 80 years), that the State of Michigan had long ago done away with any means of doing so.   Simply put, it had no gas chamber, no electric chair, no gallows, no mechanism for a firing squad, no nothing.   And as if to add more misery to the subject, it appears that there's a whole set of legal rules and procedures associated with any kind of State execution.   Things like, there must be two or more switches (with at least one of them being disconnected); Or if a firing squad is used, one of the bullets used must be a blank round (so everyone in the firing squad could always claim they had the blank), etc.   ALL OF WHICH the State of Michigan didn’t have.

So the execution of Tony Chebatoris was, right from the get-go, was proving to be no easy thing.   And to add insult to injury, just who was going to pay for the whole thing.   I mean, who wanted to build a gas changer for a one and only one time use>   In fact it was proving to be such a hassle that there was even talk of just forgetting the whole thing.   (Again, Mr. Chebatoris may have been a looser in life, but in death (or actually on his way there), destiny had dictated otherwise.

MUSEUM COMMENT:   We’re not exactly sure of exactly how and where Chebatoris was finally put to rest, but it appears that it did happen in the State of Michigan.   So a happy ending for all but one individual after all.


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