LaughterScott County’s only double-execution happened on February 6, 1885. The hanging occurred in Estillville, later known as Gate City, Virginia. Wayne Powers, 23, and George Gibson, 25, were convicted of murder in April of 1884.


The Crime

William Gibson was murdered after a drunken row on the way home to Scott County, Virginia. William Gibson traveled with his cousin George. Two other men accompanied them, brothers Jonas and Wayne Powers. Jonas left the trio before the trouble began. The group had just consumed around six pints of brandy.

A fight broke out between George and William by the time they reached Dungannon, Virginia. Wayne and George both shot William. He was dead. They decided to save his clothing and took it off the body. They also split the money he carried, a little over $9.

Legend states that Wayne and George hung William and then burned the body while they laughed. The crime was allegedly committed for $12 and a new suit. There’s no documentation to support that version of events.


The Aftermath

Both men admitted to the crime. After they were sentenced, Wayne authored a pamphlet chronicling his many crimes, including several instances of attempted murder. He admitted he once tried to kill his own brother.

Their execution wasn’t public, but that didn’t stop thousands from attending the event. The murderers were given a public podium to address spectators prior to their deaths.

Wayne took center stage and warned those in attendance about the dangers of cards, pistols, and whiskey.

George made jokes about the rope they were going to hang him with and about the great crowd that had shown up; however, his laughter would not last. Both men were hung at 12:30. Wayne’s neck snapped quickly, but perhaps out of divine retribution for George’s irreverent comedy, his neck did not break instantly and he struggled for some time.