Family sues Delaware County after teen wrongfully convicted, executed over 90 years ago

Alexander McClay Williams is known as the youngest person in Pennsylvania history to be executed at just 16 years old for a crime he didn’t commit.

The teen boy's story made waves for decades, with his conviction finally being overturned in 2022. On Monday, his remaining relatives are hoping to right a wrong over 90 years later by filing a civil lawsuit.

"Mr. Williams was legally abandoned by the court system and left to die at the hands of the state," Attorney Joseph Marrone stated as he read a 2022 proclamation signed by then-governor Tom Wolf.

The family's attorney says the 16-year-old's wrongful conviction and execution was an egregious miscarriage of justice.

"What we know is that back in 1930 Alexander McClay Williams was committed to Glenn Mills School for Boys. He was a 16-year-old boy trying to find his way," Marrone said.

In 1930, a horrific murder took place on the school's campus when 34-year-old Vita Robar, who worked at the school and lived in one of the cottages on campus, was found stabbed to death over 40 times.

"Within less than a day, somehow this investigation turned to Alexander. This 16-year-old was brought in for interrogation and interrogated multiple times with no lawyer and no parents. He was a minor," Marrone said.

After a coerced false confession on January 6, 1931, an all-white jury found Alexander guilty of first degree murder, sending him to the electric chair six months later.

"There was nothing to connect Alexander to this murder other than the fact that he was a convenient black boy at the hands of the detectives and the prosecutor," Marrone said.

The tragedy has haunted the boy's family for decades.


"My mother kept saying Alex didn’t do that. There’s no way he could’ve done that. And he was right, but it affected us all."

Susie Carter is Alexander's last living sibling at 94 years old. She is the 11th of 13 children, and was just a year old when her brother was sentenced to death.

"I have 8 children. I can’t imagine what my father and mother went through," Carter said. "My sisters and brothers; it’s a terrible thing to live with something that they didn’t know really what happened."

Now, after all these years, Alexander's sister finally has her answer.

"The lead detective found that it was done by a strong man. Alexander was 5’5, 125 pounds. Very small," Marrone said. "It was later determined that the Robars filed for divorce on the basis that the husband committed extreme cruelty, but that evidence was never given over."

"All the evidence pointed to her husband."

With lifelong questions answered, the family is seeking justice.

"This case exemplifies prosecutorial and police misconduct to the highest degree. Alexander McClay Williams was nothing more than a scapegoat at the behest of racist detectives and prosecutors."

The family has filed a civil lawsuit, listing a number of defendants, including Delaware County, the estate of then-assistant district attorney Louis Bloom and the estate of Chief County Detective Oliver Smith.

"This lawsuit intends to hold those responsible accountable. This case represents a movement of change in our justice system for those who may become victims of the same horrible fate."