Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Murderer Undone by Breakfast: Jason Fairbanks

Jason Fairbanks (Dedham, Massachusetts, America, 25th September 1780 – Boston, Massachusetts, America, 10th September 1801) 


The Fairbanks House
The Fairbanks House

Shutter the windows and bar the doors because we're in the company of a thoroughly bad lot today in the shape of Massachusetts murderer, Jason Fairbanks. Before the sensationalist crime literature of the Victorians who followed, this was a case that set tongues wagging and excitable hearts fluttering because it had it all, spurned love, a suicide pact and a daring escape foiled by a young man's empty stomach.
   
Born into a socially prominent family, Fairbanks had been courting 19 year old Elizabeth Fales for some time yet all was not rosy for this particular couple. The young lady was a little reticent to commit permanently and her frustrated beau decided that enough was enough, the time had come for her to make up her mind once and for all. The couple arranged a liaison in a secluded birch grove to discuss their relationship and when Elizabeth set out for her meeting on 18th May 1801, her family could little suspect what horror the day would hold. Whatever passed between the pair remains a mystery but one fact we can be sure of: by the time the interview was concluded, Elizabeth Fales lay dying.

Later that Spring day the distraught Fairbanks arrived at Elizabeth's home drenched in blood, a knife clutched in his fist. Shocked and gravely injured, Fairbanks told the family that he and Elizabeth had tried to enact a suicide pact; however, only she was successful. A rescue party rushed to Elizabeth's aid and found her barely alive, the young lady expiring within minutes. Her body was riddled with stab wounds, including a serious injury to her back which would have been quite a feat for a suicide. With her injuries throwing suspicion over Fairbanks' version of events, the young man was treated for his injuries before being taken to jail. 

Fairbanks passionately protested his innocence; with limited use in one arm he maintained that he could not have attacked Elizabeth so ferociously. Nor, he said, would he wish to hurt her; after all, the couple were in love. A short trial resulted in a guilty verdict and Fairbanks was sentenced to death by hanging; for most people this would be the end of the story yet for Jason Fairbanks, it was the start of another dramatic chapter.

Thanks to a plan enacted by friends and family, Fairbanks escaped his cell and went on the run, sights set firmly on the border. As America hunted for the escaped murderer and his companions, the outlaws headed north to Canada but here they made one fatal error. They didn't cross the path of law enforcement, nor were they caught by those pursuing the bounty on Fairbanks' head... no, they simply stopped for breakfast. 

As the band enjoyed their repast in Skenesboro, New York, they were apprehended. With no doubt as to his identity, Fairbanks was returned to jail and when he went to the gallows on 10th September 1801, a crowd of 10,000 gathered to watch. 

The Fairbanks/Fares case became a cause célèbre, the story of the murder, escape and trial a bestseller across the country. The story of their doomed courtship and sad end  spawned sentimental literature, breathless newsprint and a national manhunt... you never get that down Gin Lane, thank goodness!



13 comments:

  1. EW! Grim! Very excited (okay, that sounds awful, but maybe you know what I mean?) about checking this out -- it's very close to me!

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  2. That *is* exciting; do let me know if you do take a trip - it's a wonderful looking house!

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  3. It sounds like an extreme crime of passion!

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    1. Doesn't it? I imagine that Elizabeth resolutely refused to give Fairbanks the commitment he was seeking and he exploded. A horrible tale!

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  4. I can't believe the house is still there.

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    1. It is indeed; the oldest wood-frame house in the USA, it now offers bed and breakfast!

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  5. What a great subject! Antiquarian 'Jagged Edge' with a lot of twists and turns. I imagine the B&B side of things is a great crowd puller but I can't ever imagine overnighting there!

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  6. And ...History repeats itself today as you read so often in the news about antics of would be Jason's of the world re-creating this scene over & over. Love the old Historical Homes of New England_I visited many when we lived in New Hampshire. My favorite is still "The Mount" (Lenox,Ma)_home of my favorite Author Edith Wharton.Nice read!

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    1. Thank you for your visit! I would love visit New England (and one day, hopefully, I will!) sadly though history repeats itself all too often on this sort of story.

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  7. This Dumbass was too STUPID for words!! On the absolute verge of escape, mere footsteps from the conveyance that would ferry Him across to freedom, this absolutely STUPID FOOL decides to stop and feed his bloody stomach! He deserved EVERYTHING He got....

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    1. He should have waited and breakfasted in Canada!

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    2. That's not the reason he deserved what he got.

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