Rosanna Lightner Phillips
Rosanna Phillips and her husband Daniel murdered the farmer they
worked for with an ax. Blaming each other for the murder they were both
sentenced to die in North Carolina's gas chamber.
Daniel and Rosanna were gassed on January 1, 1943. Daniel went first. If
he made a last minute confession, Rosanna could possibly be saved. He
didn't, so as soon as the chamber had been cleared of fumes, it was time
for Rosanna.
Rosanna was 26 years old. She was 5' 7'', wore a size 7 shoe and
weighted 138 pounds. She had a long scar from below the right ear
extending almost to her nose.
She entered the gas chamber wearing a two-piece prison "play suite", no
underwear was allowed. She was nervous, singing a spiritual as she was
accompanied by the prison marton.
The mechanism that drops the cyanide capsules failed and guards had to
enter the chamber and adjust it while Rosanna was strapped in the chair
right above.
After the cyanide finally dropped into the acid it took her 7 minutes and
20 seconds to die. According to newspaper accounts it was then the
shortest time on record.
When North Carolina switched from electricity to gas, the old electric
chair was moved into the gas chamber. There is a pan underneath for the
acid and a dispenser for the cyanide capsules directly under the seat. There
is a little trap door in the seat to put in the poison. The cyanide is dropped
by an electric switch instead of by the usual lever.
The condemned faced the witneses and wore the old leather mask from
the electric chair.
Rosanna's face was covered as the guards - quite unexpected - came back
to fumble under her seat.