Robert James and his wife had only been married for three months. She had met the 38-year-old barber when he hired her to work as a manicurist at his barbershop at Ninth and Olive in downtown Los Angeles. Robert was a strange kind of ladies’ man. On a warm summers night, he was driven home by another couple to have dinner with his new wife but when he arrived the house was dark and she was nowhere to be seen.
After at first thinking her death was accidental, Robert client and accomplice had a few too many to drink and while at a bar bragged that he and Robert had gotten away with the 'perfect crime'. That along with an already suspicious insurance salesman and police was enough to put them under the microscope which is when the truth came out. Robert James didn't just KILL his wife, the conman/killer had a twisted way to get rid of her.
James purchased a life insurance policy on his wife. A few months later, James purchased rattlesnakes, which were used in an unsuccessful attempt to murder his wife. Hours later, Mary was found dead by drowning.
Investigators discovered that James had been married previously and that one of his prior wives had died under similar circumstances.
On May 1, 1942, Rattlesnake James was executed by hanging at San Quentin State Prison in California. The rope was the wrong length and it took over ten minutes for Rattlesnake James to die.
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