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Morgan’s Corner murder

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Morgan’s Corner murder was committed by two escaped convicts James Majors and John Palakiko in Nuuanu Valley on the outskirts of Honolulu when they burglarized the home of Therese Wilder March 11, 1948 and left her bound and gagged, which caused her to suffocate.


Morgan’s Corner

At the time of the murder the area was a semirural rainforest. Morgan’s Corner is a bend on Nuuanu Pali Drive that connected Honolulu to Kāneʻohe before it was superseded by Hawaii Route 61. The bend is after a hairpin turn from the Honolulu side of the bend. Morgan’s Corner became referred to as a “corner” because the bend curves the road perpendicularly so that from Honolulu one enters the bend from the north and exits to the east or from Kāneʻohe one enters the bend from the east and exits to the north. The namesake came from Dr. James Morgan who built his villa on the inside of the bend in the 1920s. Opposite Morgan, Wilder’s house was south of the bend.

The Murder

Petty criminals James Majors (20) and John Palakiko (21) escaped a prison work crew March 10, 1948. The next day they intended to get supplies by burglarizing a neighbor of Therese Wilder (68), widow of William Wilder. The pair were hungry and when they smelled Wilder’s cooking they decided to rob her instead. The two men attacked, bound, and gagged Wilder, then left her on her bed. During the struggle Wilder had her jaw broken, when she was gagged with her broken jaw it caused her to suffocate. Five days later on March 16 Wilder’s gardener Isabelo Escalante and maid Miya Matayoshi found her body.


On March 12 the pair attempted to steal a car, Palakiko was captured and Majors escaped. On March 21 Majors was caught attempting suicide by drinking iodine. Majors had his stomach pumped and was hospitalized. On April 16 James Majors and John Palakiko were charged with first-degree murder in the court of Judge Carrick Buck. Majors pleaded not guilty and Palakiko requested to postpone his plea. On June 18 the jury found the men guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced them to death by hanging. On September 13, 1951 Governor Oren Long issued a stay of execution two minutes before the execution when attorneys presented evidence the men gave forced confessions. In 1954 Governor Samuel King commuted the men’s sentences from death to 90 years in prison. On December 21, 1962 Governor John Burns commuted the men’s sentences to probation. Palakiko violated parole and was sent to prison for three years where he died on September 11, 1974 at age 46. On December 20, 1968 Majors completed parole. He was last known to be on Oahu in 1978 and disappeared likely by his own volition.


Morgan’s Corner murder Wikipedia

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