Home Posthumous Profiles Posthumous Profiles – William McGuire & James Burke

Posthumous Profiles – William McGuire & James Burke

by Jennifer Jones
Posthumous Profiles - William McGuire

You might be wondering why I’ve taken a picture of nothing at the Ogden City Cemetery. Well, the above picture is actually the unmarked grave of William McGuire who was murdered on the evening of May 1st, 1916 in the Ogden City Jail.

Not a whole lot was known about William McGuire at the time of his death. His age was listed as 46 years old and his occupation was listed as none. It appears that Mr. McGuire had a drinking problem and was well known in Ogden as an unemployed troublemaker. In 1910 a man with the same name, possibly the same guy, was arrested in Ogden on a vagrancy charge and was given 2 hours to leave town or he would serve 90 days in jail.

It seems that William made his way back to Ogden and on the evening of May 1st, 1916 he and his friend James Burke were arrested for “trying to pass some dope” to prisoners in the jail. They were placed in a cell together and approximately an hour later officers heard an “animal-like cry” and sounds of a struggle. When they ran to the cell they found James Burke with his hands around William McGuire’s neck. They had to fight Burke (who only had one leg) in order to get him to release his hold of McGuire.

Posthumous Profiles - William McGuire

A doctor was summoned and was unsuccessful in trying to revive William McGuire. His body was removed from the prison and an autopsy was later performed. James Burke was then charged with 2nd-degree murder. Just three days later on May 4th, 1916, Burke was in Judge James Howell’s court and pleaded guilty to the charge. He also waived the time for passing his sentence, meaning he could be sentenced immediately.

Burke told the court that while in jail he and McGuire “had a few words and began to fight.” He claimed that McGuire was punching him and he was basically defending himself. The court deferred sentencing until Judge Howell could get more information from the county physician who conducted the autopsy, Dr. Robinson. Dr. Robinson testified that William McGuire did not die from choking, but that “Burke likely caused a rupture in the brain resulting in death.”

The following morning, Judge Howell sentenced James L. Burke to an indeterminate term in the Utah State Penitentiary.

Posthumous Profiles - William McGuire

The funeral for William McGuire was held on May 8th, 1916. He was buried in the Ogden City Cemetery where his grave remains unmarked to this day. James Burke repeatedly petitioned the State Pardon Board for termination of his sentence. At the request of the District Attorney, his sentence was terminated two years later on August 19th, 1918.

As for James Burke, I wasn’t able to track him down following his release from prison. I don’t believe he died in Utah, but where he managed to go after that we’ll probably never know.

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Jay Webster October 18, 2017 - 4:37 pm

Where exactly is this in the cemetery? This seems to be close to a spot I’ve had a personal experience at (unexplained cold spot). Ther’s a grave or two I’ve wanted to dig a little on, but haven’t been able to,especially since I moved to Salt Lake. But I love the Ogden City cemetery.

Jennifer Jones October 18, 2017 - 7:28 pm

His grave is on 12th, about halfway between Center & North on the east side.

Jay Webster October 19, 2017 - 9:16 am

Sweet. Would you by chance take requests for a profile someone else might want to see done? There is a headstone that has always caught my attention at the OCC.

Jennifer Jones October 19, 2017 - 4:41 pm

Sure just send me the name…can’t guarantee I’ll find anything on it though. 🙂


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