The Happiest Prisoner on Death Row Tells a Sad Tale from Colorado
The tragic case of Joe Arridy is one that lives in infamy for the state of Colorado and everyone involved. Once called, "the happiest man on death row," Arridy is believed to have been falsely accused and convicted of a brutal crime that resulted in his execution and a dark time for Colorado as a whole.
Who Was Colorado's Joe Arridy?
Joe Arridy was born in Pueblo, Colorado on April 29, 1915, to Syrian immigrant parents. Because of his difficulty with the English language, Arridy spent most of his childhood attending the State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives in Grand Junction and was said to have had an IQ of a mere 46.
However, his childhood would seem like a cakewalk compared to what Arridy experienced in his early adult life.
Colorado's Joe Arridy is Accused of a Brutal Crime
On August 14, 1936, two young sisters were brutally attacked, raped, and one of them was murdered in their Pueblo, Colorado home.
Just twelve days later, Arridy was arrested for vagrancy in Cheyenne, Wyoming and after questioning by sheriff George Carroll, allegedly confessed to the attacks that claimed the life of one of the young girls.
Was the Colorado Man Really a Killer?
This tragic story gets even more unsettling as another man by the name of Frank Aguilar confessed to the crimes and denied ever meeting Arridy, whose confession was believed to have been coerced and low intelligence taken advantage of.
Despite Aguilar's confession and Arridy's likely innocence, both men were executed for the crimes; Aguilar in 1937 and Arridy in 1939.
Witnesses say that Arridy was 'the happiest man on death row' and allegedly didn't even realize why he was in jail or what was going to happen to him until it was too late.
Years later, Arridy posthumously received a pardon from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter in 2011 and received a tombstone a few years prior in 2007.