Michigan’s All-Time Most Dangerous Inmate
He’s been called “Michigan’s Most Dangerous Inmate”.
Robert Irving Latimer was born on 14 October 1865, in Michigan.
When the people of Jackson woke up on the morning of January 25, 1889, the local paper headlines blared "Murder! Mrs. Mary H. Latimer Found Cold in Death in Her Bed Chamber. Two Gaping Wounds." She had been shot in the head and face. It was especially unnerving, as her husband had died just a year and three months earlier in 1887.
The deaths of a man and his wife, so close together, started local tongues wagging and suspicions arose…..pointing toward their only son, Robert Irving Latimer, age 23.
According to Mlive, the 1887 cause of the father’s death (originally thought to have been heart disease) was later revealed to have been from poisoning. He drank some apple cider the night before, believed to have been laced with some kind of poison or cocaine. Hearing this, local druggists contacted authorities telling them that Robert had been going around town to the drug stores, looking for supplies of cocaine. (I'm wondering if the report was incorrect and they meant 'cyanide' instead of 'cocaine'?)
After Robert’s mother was found dead by a neighbor at their house on First Street, suspicions came to accusations. When questioned on his whereabouts, Robert Irving had the excuse he was attempting to visit a lady from out of town; she didn’t meet him, so he took a train back to Jackson, arriving after 1am. This lame explanation, backed with the fact that the family dogs were not barking viciously (as if there were intruders in the house), culminated in the arrest of Robert on January 26, 1889.
Robert never admitted his guilt, but police believed he did it to acquire all his mother’s money. Robert Irving was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But it was not the last that Michigan was to hear about Robert Irving Latimer.
On March 27, 1893, Jackson Prison guard George Haight was found dead after being poisoned by Latimer. Forming a bond with the guard, Latimer told Haight he had a buried treasure stashed away in another state and would share it with him. This promise led Haight to be more lenient with Latimer, giving him a little extra freedom.
On the night of March 27, Latimer was assisting with the dinner preparation for the guards. He had acquired an amount of opium and cyanide, with which he proceeded to lace the food (some say it was lemonade). After eating the food, Deputy Haight collapsed onto the floor; Latimer rushed over to make it look like he was trying to help…but he wasn’t. He took the keys, a couple of guns, and left the prison grounds with no one noticing.
After realizing Latimer was missing, a search was organized, he was found in the village of Jerome, and brought back to prison.
Over the years – thanks to public knowledge that he murdered his own mother - Latimer’s notoriety grew and was denied parole time and time again. After being imprisoned for 46 years, Robert Irving Latimer was finally released in 1935, thanks to Michigan Governor Frank Fitzgerald, who gave him a full pardon.
Latimer briefly got a job at the Ford Motor Company, worked until his health hospitalized him, and died at Eloise State Hospital in 1945. He was 80 years old.
Michigan's Most Dangerous Inmate
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