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Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

Crime & Policing in the North

The Weekly Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory), Friday, December 7, 1917

The Weekly Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory), Friday, December 7, 1917

Pays the Penalty - Dawson Japanese Hung For Murdering Wife

    Dawson News, Noy. 23: With a denial of his guilt and the words of the song "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know," his last earthly utterances, Roy Yoshioko stood on the gallows and his soul was plunged into eternity. He was executed in the jail yard at Dawson this morning before the break of day.

    Yoshioko was calm and self possessed to the last. He was perhaps the coolest man present at the grim performance. As he left the prison cell and ascended the scaffold step under heavily armed guard his step was brisk, and betrayed no sign of hesitancy. The movement was almost on the double quick, and he was entirely unassisted.

    The moment the condemned man reached the floor of the scaffold, he was placed on the trap, three feet square. The proceedings then were brief. In a few moments it was all over, and the body hung limp in mute testimony that society was avenged and that the fiend incarnate had paid the penalty of the foul crime for which he was convicted.

    When Yoshioko stepped upon the trap he was bare headed. He was paler than when on trial weeks before, due perhaps to long confinement, but not a line of his countenance denoted any physical or mental anguish. The physicolomist would have been baffled to have read the man’s emotions until he spoke. He faced the south. It was still dark outside, and a little wind came through the rough board walls yet the temperature wa: above zero and the cold not noticeable. The condemned man was attired in the rough gray prison shirt, without a collar, and without a coat. His arms had been pinioned behind him before he left his cell. One strong electric light glowed above the man and the little group of witnesses.

    Twelve men were present, including Sheriff Brimston, who had charge of the execution; and an unnamed man who acted as executioner and who was masked; Col. R. S. Knight, superintendent of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, who had custody of the prisoner; Rev, Father Lewis, the Catholic clergyman; Chief Isaac, representing the Indians on behalf of Percy James, the murdered Indian; S. Kawakami, representing the Japanese consul at Vancouver and the Japanese residents of Dawson, and Dr. J. O. Lachapelle, the physician, and Sergt. Major Nicoll, R. N. W. M. P.. The others were mostly police guards.

    Sheriff Brimston stepped forward.

    "Yoshioko," said the sheriff, "you are about to die. I want to ask you one question first, and I want you to answer me. Did you kill your wife Hisa or the Indian Percy?"

    "No, I did not," replied Yoshioko as he looked direct at the sheriff. He spoke loudly and distinctly.

    The sheriff stepped back. Yoshioko then asked if Constable Jack Tarr, the provost or chief jailer, was present. He was not on the scaffold. What Yoshioka desired he did not say, but it was understood that he previously had expressed a wish for the provost to play an accompaniment on his guitar to the song of "Jesus Loves Me." The condemned man had learned the song in his prison cell from hearing Constable Tarr and Constable Burley singing it.

    Monday of this week Yoshioka was baptised and formally made member of the Catholic church, and given the sacrament and the communion. He was attended many times at the jail by the father. When the father read the ten commandments to Yoshioko for the first time he said he had never heard of them before, and did not know such laws were laid down by the Christian religion. When the priest read: "Thou shalt not kill," Yoshioko turned his head and rolled his eyes in serious thought, and said to the father that was something new. He acted the same on hearing the other commandments.

    The father says the new faith was the dawning of a new light on the man, and that Yoshioko expressed the regret on learning these facts and on joining the church that he had not become a Christian some two years ago when his wife did. He said that it might have kept him out of lots of trouble. Exactly what he meant by this is unknown, but it is the nearest he is known to have stated, says the father, to what might be construed as an admittance he had_done any wrong at any time. If he had any reference to confession of guilt in the case of murder he did not make it plain.

    Yoshioko was condemned for murdering his wife Hisa, at West Dawson, in June of this year. She and her unborn child died together. Percy James, an Indian, aiso was found dead on the Yoshioko premises, and while no charge of murdering the Indian was laid, it was generally presumed one person killed both the Indian and the woman, and the evidence, all of which was circumstantial, covered both cases.

    Many times in the original article, Yoshioko's name was spelled Yoshioka, but we have corrected them.