She may have wanted to live, but on June 3, 1955 Barbara Graham, who was nicknamed “Bloody Babs” by the press, was executed in the California gas chamber. On that same day the accomplices, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins were also executed. They had been convicted of the murder of Mabel Monohan.
Graham was the third woman in California to die by gas.
Born Barbara Elaine Wood in Oakland, California on June 26, 1923, she had a misspent youth as a poor student and sent to a reform school as a teenager. Part of this may have been due to her being raised by extended family. When she was born Graham’s mother was a teen and sent to the same reform school her daughter would be sent.
She had tried to reform, upon release from reform school in 1939 she had married and enrolled in a business college. The marriage failed. By 1953 when she married Henry Graham, she had been married twice more, worked as a prostitute and involved with drugs and gambling.
Henry Graham was a harden criminal and through him she met Jack Santo and Emmet Perkins, beginning an affair with Perkins. It was Perkins who learned of Mabel Monohan, a 64 year old widow who was thought to be keeping a lot of money in her house. It was during a robbery that Monhan was killed. Barbara reportedly pistol-whipped Monohan, cracking her skull and they then suffocated her with a pillow. They also left the house after finding nothing of value.
In 1958 Susan Hayward played Graham in the movie I Want to Live. Hayward won an Academy Award for her role. The movie strongly suggested that Graham was innocent. This claim was incorrect since evidence would point to her guilt.