Hannah Ocuish

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Hannah Ocuish (March 1774-December 1786) was executed at the age of twelve years and nine months, being hanged on 20 December 1786, in New London, Connecticut. She is believed to be the youngest person legally executed in America.[1][2]

A mentally retarded Pequot Indian girl, she was accused of killing six-year-old Eunice Bolles, the daughter of a wealthy farmer after quarreling with her over some strawberries. The primary evidence against her was her confession to the investigators. At her execution, she thanked the sheriff for his kindness as she stepped forward to be hanged.[2]

"[Rev.] Henry Channing preached at [her] 1786 execution, publishing the sermon under the title God Admonishing His People of their Duty . . . a Sermon . . . Occasioned by the Execution of Hannah Ocuish, a Mulatto Girl, Aged 12 Years and 9 Months, for the Murder of Eunice Bolles, Aged 6 Years and 6 Months."[3] The sermon, which admonished parents not to neglect religious instruction for their children, summarized the crime as follows, according to Karen Halttunen:

On the 21st of July, 1786, at about 10 o'clock in the morning, the body of the murdered child was found in the public road leading from New-London to Norwich, lying on its face near to a wall ... The neighborhood turned out to hunt for the murderer; Hannah was questioned and claimed that she had seen four boys near the scene of the crime. When a search failed to turn them up, Hannah was interrogated again, and then taken to the Bolles home to be charged with homicide in the presence of the dead child. She burst into tears and confessed. Only at this late point in the narrative is the reader offered a sequential account of the crime. Five weeks earlier, Eunice had reported Hannah for stealing fruit during the strawberry harvest, and Hannah had plotted revenge. Catching sight of her young enemy headed for school one morning, Hannah had lured Eunice from her path with a gift of calico, then beat and choked her to death.[4]

Her name has also erroneously appeared as "Hannah Omish."[2]

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