“I sure hope I’m the last one to go. Will you make sure the press gets that?”
This is the dying wish of Feguer to the prison chaplain, 30 minutes before he was hanged to death. Who is he and what has he done?
Victor Feguer, a kidnapper slash murderer who had also been nicknamed as “Doctor Killer” was the last federal inmate that was executed in the state of Iowa. Two years after his death, Iowa abolished death penalty until a mass murder happened decades after his death.
Born in 1935, Victor Harry Feguer, a native of St. Johns in the state of Michigan had lived normally until 1941, his mother’s death. His kin became an alcoholic and the 6-year-old Feguer was then bounced from one relative to another.
At age of 12, he was already convicted of breaking in and petty thefts. To simply put it, he had one troubled and complicated childhood- his young life tied in behind the bars.
Struggling on getting a job due to his criminal records, on July 7, 1960, he had taken a bus from Milwaukee to Dubuque, Iowa, with his 0.38-caliber handgun. He had found a place to rent and settle into, and this is where his end started.
Soon after his arrival, he stumbled into a phone book and found Dr. Edward Bartels name, a medical practitioner at the age of 34 and a father of two. Bartels was a native of Dubuque, a famous High School sports Star, and a part of the Navy from 1944 to 1946. The victim attended University of Iowa and was interned in California.
Dr. Bartels was a well-respected Doctor in their area. Who would have thought that he would die in the most unexpected way? Especially at a young age where he is still at the prime of his career?
On July 11, 1960, Dr. Bartels home phone rang.
The caller (Feguer) asked for some help as his wife, named “Mrs. Stevens” was in pain and just had a surgery. Dr. Bartels ran off immediately, wrote a note to his wife that he is heading off to 1134 Locust St. for an emergency and will meet off with “Ed Stevens”.
Hours later, Bartels’ pregnant wife received a call from “Mr. Stevens”, telling her that the patient’s case was worse, and that Dr. Bartels will need to monitor his “wife” overnight.
The Doctor never came back. The Police conducted a search and originally treated this case as Kidnapping. They were able to find clues leading them to Feguer. They were able to visit the room Feguer rented and found nothing but his unemployment forms.
Feguer, who is then the primary suspect and culprit of the Doctor’s disappearance tried to trade in a 1959 Rambler (which is the victim’s car) in Gary, Indiana but was denied as he cannot present any documentation or title to prove that he owns the car.
On July 20, 1960, Feguer was arrested by the police after being reported by a used-car Salesman in Birmingham, Alabama. Hours before the capture, Dr. Bartels’ decomposed body was found, face up, in the woods 10 miles east of Dubuque and across the line of Illinois.
He was shot on the back of his head. It was told that upon the Doctor’s arrival, Feguer pulled a gun on him and forced the doctor back in his car to drive along east of Illinois. He shot him dead in the woods.
Investigators interrogated the suspect Victor Feguer, but they were not able to get anything from him. No responses, but also not resistant. They thought that there is a chance that the motive was to gain access to morphine and drugs as the victim was a doctor, but this is not confirmed by the culprit.
The Fight for Life
As Feguer stepped over the border of Illinois, federal charges had been applied, leading the case of kidnapping and murder to death penalty.
Feguer was held initially at the Federal Penitentiary at Kansas but was later brought back in Iowa, as Kansas back then was not put up for death executions.
He tried to escape the penalty and claimed that the Doctor was murdered by a drug addict he had met in Dubuque and that he killed that drug addict and threw the body off the Mississippi River.
It was an unsuccessful try, though. Due to lack of evidence and the body was never found, proving Feguer’s statement.
His attorneys also claimed that Feguer was not psychologically stable, bringing in Psychiatrists on the trial but was not sided by the court.
Feguer’s defense attorney, together with Iowa’s governor Harold Hughes, contacted the then President of United States, John F Kennedy to request for clemency and to at least reduce the penalty to life-time Imprisonment.
President Kennedy never responded. As it was told back then that he thought the crime was so brutal that he denied their request.
On March 5, 1963, ten days before his execution, Feguer was brought to the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison.
On March 14, he was able to have an all-night vigil with a Catholic Priest. By morning, he was given a new suit for his execution.
Now, we all know that for every execution, they are given the chance to request for their last meals, right?
What he asked was a single piece of olive, with the pit still intact. Feguer said that he hoped for an Olive tree to sprout from his grave, as a symbol of Peace. Who would have thought that statement was coming from a murderer right?
On the day of the execution, Feuger walked to the gallows, with a blank expression. His head was then covered with a black hood and died ten minutes after he was hanged.
No one claimed his body. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Madison.
Victor Feguer had been forgotten as time went by. His murder attracted few news outlets and was even brought into the White House! He was the last person to be executed in the State of Iowa as the Death Penalty was abolished in 1965, two years after his death.
It seems like his dying wish was granted. But decades after the abolishment, the Death Penalty was then reiterated due to the mass murder and bombing of Timothy McVeigh.
I can say that Victor’s life was tragic. However, even if life has given you a lot of things to give up on, it is still you who will choose which path to take.
Feguer did an unforgivable sin of taking someone’s life. And it will be forever in the hearts of the family that was left behind. I just hope that he was able to atone to his sins before his death.