16 August 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the execution of Virginia Christian for the brutal murder of Ida V. Belote in Hampton, Virginia, on 18 March 1912. Out of the Box featured select documents from the Christian case in September 2010. The 23 September 2010 execution of Teresa Lewis for her role in the murder of her husband, Julian Lewis, sparked new interest in Virginia Christian, who up to that time was the only woman to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia since the General Assembly centralized executions at the Virginia State Penitentiary in 1908.
Often in high-profile criminal cases, the victim and victim’s family are an afterthought. To mark this infamous anniversary, I decided to write a post on Ida V. Belote. Who was she? What happened to her eight children? Two of her young daughters discovered their mother’s body and testified at the coroner’s inquisition. What became of them? My search for answers led me to the Belote coroner’s inquisition, newspaper articles, and Ancestry.com. What follows is a fragmentary picture of Ida Belote and her family.
Ida Virginia Hobbs, the daughter of James and Harriette Hobbs, was born in March 1861 in North Carolina. Hobbs married James Edward Wadsworth Belote (17 February 1846-6 June 1911) on 5 November 1879 in Northampton County, North Carolina. By 1880 the … read more »
On 16 August 1912, 17-year-old Virginia Christian was electrocuted at the Virginia Penitentiary for the 18 March 1912 murder of Ida Belote, her white employer. Today, she remains the only woman to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia since the General Assembly centralized executions at the Virginia State Penitentiary in 1908. That historic distinction may be about to change. Barring any intervention by the judicial system or Governor Robert McDonnell, Teresa Lewis will be executed on 23 September 2010 at the Greensville Correctional Center for her role in the murder of her husband, Julian Lewis. Lewis’s pending execution has sparked renewed interest in the Christian case.
The Library of Virginia has a variety of documents concerning Virginia Christian’s execution. Rather than summarizing the case, I will let a representative sample of 51 documents tell the story from all sides: Christian’s family and her attorneys, Belote’s family, the prosecutor, and Governor William Hodges Mann. These documents were drawn from various State Records collections including: Virginia Dept. of Corrections, State Penitentiary; Secretary of the Commonwealth, Executive Papers; and Records of Governor William Mann. Each image caption includes the citation of the document. The records of the Virginia State Penitentiary Collection, 1796-1991 (Accession 41558) are now open to researchers.
Readers interested in exploring how the Christian case was covered in the media should consult the Library of Virginia’s extensive newspaper collection. Click here … read more »