Judge vacates murder conviction of Pennsylvania teen executed in 1931

A Pennsylvania judge vacated a nearly century-old murder conviction of a teenager who was the state's youngest person ever put to death. 

The overturned conviction comes after a decades-long fight by the family of the teenager, Alexander McClay Williams. 

Williams was a 16-year-old student at Glen Mills School in Delaware County in 1931 when he was accused of murdering 33-year-old Vida Robare.

Robare, a "house matron" at the school, was stabbed 47 times with an ice pick in a case that made headlines across the country. 

Williams, who was doing chores unsupervised at the time of the murder, confessed to the crime three times without an attorney or parent present, according to reports. He was arrested on October 10, 1930, and executed 243 days later on June 8, 1931. 

Williams remains the youngest person executed in Pennsylvania. It was determined Monday that the African-American teenager with an all white jury did not get a fair trial. 

"I'm so happy that his name will be cleared and when my mother and father are resurrected, they'll find that out," Williams' sister Susie Carter said. "They knew he couldn't have done it."

It is believed that the teen was wrongly accused and coerced to confess; and now the case heads back to court with new details that could clear his name.

"This guilty verdict was decided before the case even began," said Sam Lemon, the great-grandson of Williams' trial attorney. 

Lemon uncovered new evidence in the 100-year-old case, including Robare's death certificate naming Williams as the killer days before he was even arrested.

A bloody hand print was also discovered on the wall, but Williams reportedly never had a speck of blood on him that day. The hand print, according to prosecutors, was examined by two fingerprint experts, yet never publicly identified or mentioned at trial.


Lemon believes Robare's ex-husband was most likely the murderer, because he was the last person to see her alive and the first to find her body. The district attorney's office said investigators did not appear to know that the victim had been granted a divorce from her estranged husband on the grounds of "extreme cruelty"

Teresa Smither, the ex-husband's niece, says her ancestor "got away with murder." 

"Sadly, we cannot undo the past, we cannot rewrite history to erase the egregious wrongs of our fore bearers," Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said. "However, when, as here, justice can be served by publicly acknowledging such a wrong, we must seize that opportunity."