Paul Geidel (April 21, 1894 – May 1, 1987) was the longest serving American prison inmate whose sentence ended with his release. After being convicted of second-degree murder in 1911, Geidel served 68 years and 245 days in various New York state prisons. He was released on May 7, 1980, at the age of 86.
Early life and murder
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, to an alcoholic saloon keeper who died when Geidel was 5, the boy spent much of his childhood in an orphanage. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and worked in a series of menial jobs in Hartford and New York City hotels.
On July 26, 1911, Geidel – 17-years-old at the time – decided to rob 73-year-old William H. Jackson, a wealthy broker, who was a guest at the Iroquois Hotel on West 44th Street in New York City where Geidel was working as a bellhop. Geidel snuck into Jackson's room, and suffocated him to death with a rag filled with chloroform. Geidel only made off with a few dollars.
Two days later, Geidel was arrested. He was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder and sent to prison for 20 years to life.
Geidel began his sentence at the Sing Sing prison. His sentence was shortened due to good behavior and he was nearing a possible parole hearing, but doctors then found Geidel to be legally insane in 1926. He was then moved to the Dannemora State Hospital for the Criminal Insane, where he was confined until 1972. He was then moved to the Fishkill Correctional Facility. Here Geidel lived in a unit designed for elderly inmates that more resembled a dormitory, rather than a prison.
Geidel was granted parole in August 1974, but the now 80-year-old inmate did not want to leave. Having lived in prison for 63 years—his entire adult life—and having no family, he believed that he would not make it on the outside. He chose to remain in prison for almost six more years.
On May 7, 1980, Geidel left Fishkill, having served the longest prison sentence in American history. "No publicity please," Geidel said with a smile to reporters as he was leaving the facility. He is believed to have lived out the remainder of his days in a Dutchess County nursing home.
Notes and references
- New York Times, January 16, 1974 "Freedom Is Sought for a Murderer in Prison 62 Years"
- New York Times, June 22, 1975, "Follow Up on the News"
- New York Times, September 26, 1926, "Slayer Near Freedom Found to be Insane".
- New York Times, January 16, 1974 "Freedom Is Sought for a Murderer in Prison 62 Years".
- New York Times, June 22, 1975, "Follow Up on the News".
- Hustler Magazine, June 1977, "Ultimate Release: Fantasy of Freedom".
- New York Times, May 9, 1980, "Convict is Released After 68 Years".