I come from a family of phenomenal women. My great-grandmother, Rosa, started her own business although she wasn’t educated. She used to say, “It takes brains, guts, hard work and faith to run a business.” And she had all of those. Payne Bakery, as it was called, named after my great grandfather, Payne, has franchises all over the United States. Just last year a new one opened in Delaware. My great-grandmother or Miss Rosa as people used to call her, was the first in our family to own and run a business. After she died, her son and his wife took over the business because her daughter, Mavis wasn’t interested in running it. She had other plans.
My grandmother, Mavis was a remarkable woman. From since she was a child, the law fascinated her. She loved reading about court cases and would pretend that she was the presiding judge so it came as no surprise when she became the first woman in our family and in the whole county to ever sit on the judge’s bench. I could still remember the newspaper clipping of her hearing her first case. She used to say to us, “I don’t want to see any of my family members in my courtroom unless they are here as spectators.”
When my grandmother died, I was devastated. She was the only member of my family that I had any real affection for. I admired her strength, her directness and her intelligence.
Unlike my two grandmothers, my mother Hope didn’t achieve anything in life worthy of notice except that she attended one of the best universities money could buy. It was at university where she met my father. They dated, she got pregnant and he married her. I often wondered if she hadn’t gotten pregnant with me if they would have still gotten married. Theirs was a comfortable marriage. They got along well and hardly fought. I believed they cared for each other but as far as being in love, I suspected that they weren’t. Growing up, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get married. I didn’t want my marriage to be as bland as theirs. Then, I met Samuel, the man whom I came to love with such a passion that it scared me and caused me to…
I jumped when I heard the judge call out, “May the defendant, Linda Jones please rise.” It took a few minutes for me to realize that I was sitting in a courtroom. My mind had wandered and now I was back to reality. Slowly, I rose to my feet. I could feel all eyes on me. I faced the judge.
I heard him ask the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, how do you find the defendant? Guilty or not guilty?”
It seemed like time was suspended for a moment as I waited to hear the verdict and then it came, “We, the jury, find the defendant, Linda Jones, guilty.”
I felt my legs give way and I sank down onto the chair. Although, I expected it, the verdict was still a shock. How could I not be found guilty? I shot Samuel, the man I desperately loved, until all the bullets were spent. I went to his home, confronted him and then shot him because he refused to leave his wife for me. Yes, I was guilty and deserved to be punished. I thought of grandmother Mavis and how she would feel at this very moment to see me, her favorite grandchild, standing here in this courtroom, guilty of murder. I was the first member of our family to be tried and convicted of murder. It was 1954. I will be hanged. What an awful legacy I am leaving behind.
If Grandmother Mavis were here, she would be hanging her head in shame unable to look at the grandchild she had had such high hopes for. Please forgive me, Grandmother Mavis, I whisper as they led me from the courtroom. My parents are there but I can’t look at them. I don’t want to see the shame and anguish on their faces.
On October 11, 1954, Mary Stockwell was hanged. She was only 27.
This story was inspired by the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain for killing her lover, David Blakely.