The Braasch/Sullivan Murders By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
March 22, 2013
On October 22, 1949, during an early morning robbery of a Standard Service Station in Beaver, Utah, Verne Alfred Braasch and Melvin LeRoy Sullivan shot and killed Howard (Duke) Manzione one hour before his shift was over. Manzione was shot four times and died after being transported to Cedar City Hospital. Braasch and Sullivan were captured the next day in Las Vegas. They had gotten $20 from a cash register. At the time of the killing, Braasch was 24 years old and Sullivan was 19. Normally a case in Utah would not receive any attention as far east as Iowa but their verdict was listed in the Reinbeck Courier. Braasch, who was 30 at the time of the execution, was born May 24, 1928 in Reinbeck. His father was listed as William F. Braasch, was born in 1886 also in Iowa. He died in 1949 and is buried in the Reinbeck Cemetery. Tried and sentenced four separate times to die, Braasch and Sullivan received a stay of execution, each execution until 1956. With all appeals gone they released a statement to the press shortly before their execution, which stated they did not protest against being punished. They went on to say that they did not have a fair chance in life, coming from broken homes they grew up in neglect, were denied parental care, affection, and guidance, and stated that religious training would have pointed them in the right direction. While in prison during the years of waiting, they stated they tried to build up in their souls what was lacking, and that they were ready to accept their severe punishment with true religious resignation. Braasch and Sullivan were executed simultaneously on May 11, 1956, for the 1949 murder. It was Utah’s second ever double murder execution in history. The Utah governor was so annoyed by the long appeal time that he submitted a bill to the U.S. Department of Justice for $19,685, or $615.05 per month for the six years they spent on death row. Braasch and Sullivan ate their last meal, roast pheasant, green salad, and strawberries and cream, along with one pint each of dry wine and sweet wine. The execution by firing squad, was double; two chairs were placed on a sled-type apparatus. Sandbags were placed behind the chairs and wood coverings covered the floor. Two chairs were used, one black (which had been used for other executions), and one white, newly painted. Sullivan sat in the black one, Braasch in the white. The execution was conducted by the sheriff, who by placing his hat over his heart, signaled the two separate firing squads to do their work. Both men were pronounced dead within one minute of the shots. Braasch is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Sullivan in Maple Hill Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas.
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