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Mug Shot Monday! Luis Monge, 1963, Executed 1967

Home | Mug Shot Monday, Short Feature Story | Mug Shot Monday! Luis Monge, 1963, Executed 1967

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In the summer of 1963, Denver residents Luis J. Monge and his spouse, Leonarda, 43, had nine children and his wife was pregnant with their tenth child. Also pregnant with Luis’s child was his sixteen-year-old daughter, Gloria.[1]

Although Gloria was keeping her incestuous affair a secret from her mother, Luis knew it was only a matter of time before his wife discovered the truth.[2] He may have brooded over the problem for some time before deciding his only way out was to kill his entire family on the night of June 29.

However, according to a 2014 book[3] by Gloria, she reports that her father’s rage began that night when he was caught and confronted by one of her sisters who wasn’t afraid to stand up to him. [Now going by the name Diann Kissell, she co-authored the self-published book with her psychotherapist, Kathy Bird. You can read more about Kissell and her book in a Westword online interview.]

After everyone had gone to sleep, Monge pocketed a sheathed stiletto, grabbed a three-pound fireplace poker, and fixed his mind on what had to be done.

When he was ready, Monge tip-toed down the stairs to the first floor and at the bottom, he turned, and carefully crept over to the master bedroom where his wife and youngest daughter were sleeping. Looking down at his pregnant wife, the woman he married nearly twenty years ago, he raised the three-pound iron bar above his head and focused his eyes on a broad area of her skull. With shame and anger and humiliation fueling his strength, he shattered his target with a power blow. And then another one. And another one. And another one.

Monge then walked over to the bassinet, pulled out his stiletto, and with less thrust and more care, he pushed the ugly blade into the heart of his eleven-month-old daughter, Theresa. When he knew she was dead, he picked up the little girl, and gently placed her in bed next to her mother.

Unsettled by all the blood he had seen but still determined to go through with his plan to annihilate his family, Monge went back upstairs, picked-up his sleeping son, Vincent, and carried the four-year-old back down to the basement where he choked him to death. He was then carried into the master bedroom and carefully placed next to his dead sister.

Six-year-old Alan was next. After taking two blows to the head, the young boy woke, looked up at his father holding something long and thin, and cried out, “Daddy! Daddy!” and then fell back dead.

Monge struck him one more time, and when he was sure the boy was dead, he washed the blood off Alan’s face and carried him to the bedroom where he was later found lying beside the others.

Overwhelmed with shame and guilt, Monge “could go no further” with his plans to kill the other children in the house, which included: Luis Jr., 18, Gloria, 16, Danny, 15, Eddie, 14 Diana 13, and Gerald, 8. Another son, Anthony, 11, was away at summer camp.

Like other men who kill their families, Monge ‘wanted’ to kill himself next. His suicide plan, death from carbon monoxide poisoning while sitting in a running car parked in the garage, seemed tame compared to the violent, bloody mess he had made. But like most men who become family annihilators, he couldn’t do to himself what he had done to others.

He called the police, instead.

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Monge was taken to the station that night and later gave a full confession. He was formerly arrested and held until defense counsel could be appointed. On July 12, with new defense attorneys whispering in his ear, Monge pled not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to a sole charge of murdering his wife. On a first-degree murder charge, with death penalty as one of two options, the court was forced to order Monge to a thirty-day psychiatric observation commitment at the Colorado State Hospital at Pueblo.

In their August report submitted to the judge, doctors there determined Monge was sane, and was able to aid in his own defense. Without an insanity defense, and running out of options, Monge tried to plead guilty to the second-degree murder of his wife during an October 23 hearing.

Rejected. The trial judge refused to accept it. Knowing where the case was going, he steered it toward a jury trial.monge

Monge was given the option of pleading not guilty to first-degree murder charges and taking his criminal case to a jury. He refused, and after extensive warnings from the judge, and a signed declaration that he understood the risk he was taking, Monge pled guilty to first-degree murder.

In 1963, Colorado was ahead of the legal trend, which called for a jury to decide death, or life, for all first-degree murder defendants, including those who pled guilty, rather than a single judge or panel of judges. Convened in December, Monge’s jury chose to impose the death sentence. It was an easy decision. During the testimony phase, which included Monge’s dreadful description of how he murdered his family, the prosecution showed the jury the provocative crime scene photos.[4] News reports recount they were visibly affected.

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Monge in court. Although he wanted the death penalty, he didn’t like the jury gave it to him. It was all about control.

The jury’s decision was one that should have pleased Luis Monge, who, up until that time, was insisting he wanted the death penalty. But when he actually heard it, he didn’t like how it sounded and cried out, “You want to kill me? Kill me.”

A few weeks later, he instructed his attorneys to file an appeal.

They did.

Although originally sentenced to die in March 1964, his lawyers were able to postpone his execution until 1967. However, in March of that year, Monge had another change of heart. In a self-authored petition in which cited “ancient laws,” the now forty-eight-year-old declared he was asserting his “ancient, common-law right to die in public as a man should die, facing his accusers and not to die by poison gas like an insect.”

The “die in public” part was a demand to be hanged on the courthouse steps—in full view of everyone. He wanted to die in front of an audience.

One month later, he fired his attorneys and ordered all work on his appeals to stop. His execution, in the gas chamber and not by noose, was finally slated for June 2, 1967. But even then, the current governor wanted to make sure they weren’t about to make any mistakes, and called for a last minute sanity hearing. When he was found sane and competent, there were no more interventions on Monge’s behalf.

“For him, it was the chicken’s way out,” Kissell said during her 2014 Westword interview. By seeking his own death, he was able to escape the smoldering resentment of his children. “He never had to deal with the anger of his children. He died with the love of his children intact.”

A week before he died, Monge had a dinner with his seven remaining children. Although the local press was shocked by this, Kissell dismissed it as merely the duty of a Catholic family.

At 8:01 p.m. on June 2, he entered the small, steel gas chamber wearing only a pair of white boxer shorts—standard procedure for men condemned to die in the gas chamber. As the sodium cyanide pellets dropped into a crock of sulphuric acid, Monge held a black rosary in his hands.

At 8:20 p.m. he was pronounced dead and by nine o’clock, he was laying on an operating table having his eyes removed. In the months before his death, he had heard of a young reformatory inmate who needed a cornea transplant and through an arrangement with prison officials, Monge willed his eyes to the young man.

He may have been sincere with his donation, or he may have been seeking some publicity and good will with the governor.

Upon his death, Colorado newspapers finally hinted at his murderous motive. By pleading guilty in 1963 and avoiding a criminal trial, Monge had managed to keep his dark secret from the press. News reports that he murdered four family members to hide the fact he was molesting his daughter would lead to public disgrace that would be more painful to him than death.

However, in prison, his motive was made part of his prison records and as soon as he was dead, those records were made available to reporters. In a brief news report distributed nationwide, the Associated Press ended their execution story with a one-sentence explanation. “Prison records noted he committed the murder ‘to conceal from his wife activities with his oldest daughter.’”

“Activities with his oldest daughter” in 1967 was newspaper code that didn’t have to be explained.

After his eyes were removed for a cornea transplant, Luis Monge was buried in the Colorado State Prisoner section of Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery. Nearly all the graves there are marked with an aluminum marker, similar but smaller to a license plate, and mounted a square, steel rod pushed deep into the ground. Nearly all of the markers are rusted. Most of them are stamped “CSP Inmate,” – the only epitaph to a life wasted. A few others, like Monge’s, feature the inmate’s name.

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Monge’s bullet-riddled aluminum grave marker on “Woodpecker Hill Cemetery,” Colorado State Prison.

Monge was the last person executed in the United States until Gary Gilmore’s execution in Utah in 1977. During the intervening years, the United State Supreme Court drifted back and forth with the death penalty with Furman v. Georgia in 1972, and Gregg v. Georgia, in 1976.

A Turquoise Life via Amazon.

Monge vs the People, 406 P.2d 674, 1965

[1] This is mentioned in one source, and I am unable to confirm this pregnancy from other sources. It seems to be hinted at in the book description.

[2] According to the book, Mountain Murders: Homicide in the Rockies, there is speculation his wife may have already known her husband was molesting their oldest daughter, and had threatened to make it public if he continued. His motive for the murders, to cover-up the incestuous affair, was not made public until 1967.

[3] The self-published book, A Turquoise Life: One Woman’s Triumphant Journey by Diann Kissell and Kathy Bird (a psychotherapist) details the abuse she endured, how she struggled afterward and eventually triumphed through survival. The names have been changed.

[4] It was a tactic that worked, and later cited as one of the primary errors in an appeal.

Woodpecker Hill Photo Gallery, courtesy of Cemeteries of Colorado.   Luis Monge is one of only a few prisoners to have his name posted on his aluminum marker.

Rusted aluminum markers on steel posts identify the grave sites of prisoners executed long ago at the Colorado State Prison in Canon City.
"CSP Inmate" is how most of the markers are labeled. The man buried here is nameless and forgotten.
A barren landscape is the final resting place for executed prisoners, and those who died while serving out their sentences.
The prison can be seen from the cemetery.
A pitiful reminder of a life wasted.

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