The first woman to be hanged in four decades in Central New York, her botched execution resulted in the decision to replace the gallows with the electric chair in 1890. The family members were threatened with death if they refused and therefore, they all had an involvement with the murder case as a whole. Frank Gates and George Druse were later released due to lack of involvement of the murder.
During the trial, Mary Druse admitted to assisting in the murder, and was sentenced to life at the Onondaga Country penitentiary.
On October 6, 1885 Roxalana was sentenced to be hanged on November 25, 1885 but, due to multiple changes, this was changed to a final, official date of February 28, 1887. The morning before the murder, the Druse couple had a fight.
Fights were common between the Druses, and many residents reported signs of foul play. During this dispute, Roxalana concealed a revolver under her apron which was placed by her in another room.
Upon instruction from his mother, George Druse, aged ten, left the house while sister and daughter of the couple Mary Druse, aged nineteen, remained in the house.
Mary then tied a rope around her father"s neck while Druse fired the revolver wounding Mr. Druse. The body, along with the head, were then taken into the parlor, where they remained for the day. There, Druse cut up her husband’s body and burnt it to ash on a stove.
She also burned William’s clothes to further destroy evidence and erase his traces from the house.
False documents were produced which read that Mr. Druse had left the house after an argument and his whereabouts were unknown.
The ashes were dumped in a nearby swamp, while the murder weapon and revolver were wrapped up and dumped in a pond. On the 18th of December, 1884, William Druse was reported missing by the police due to his sudden disappearance.
Investigation lead to finding the murder weapon, an axe sold previously to William Druse, wrapped in paper in a pond along with the revolver.
Multiple allegations were reported against wife Roxalana, yet due to lack of evidence, nothing was officially reported. On January 16, 1885, Frank Gates admitted to the crime after consistent harassment from neighbors. Gates and Druse were then arrested and brought to trial on September 21, 1885, which lasted nearly two weeks.
When Druse was sentenced to death in Herkimer County, New York, suspension hanging was the method of execution.
The process jerked the prisoner upwards by a weighted rope instead of the body dropping downwards through a trap door. But as Druse was a small woman, the force failed to break her neck leaving her to die agonizingly by strangulation.
The scene was so upsetting, officials decided to switch the primary method of execution in the state to the electric chairman