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Violent Story of Murderer Robert Daniels at Mansfield Reformatory

Why would free men want to return to the town where they served time?  Robert Daniels and John West came back in 1948. Not far from the Mansfield Reformatory.  Bringing with them the darkest event in the Mansfield, Ohio’s history.

Daniels was a “psychopathic personality”.  West was called “a moron”.  They became friends in a Mansfield Reformatory cell. Connected by a shared enjoyment of crime and chaos.

In this article expect crime, murder, stupidity and a psychopath! Reader discretion is advised…

 The wounded woman telling reporters the entire story.  The media them calling them the “mad-dog killers”.

Paroled only one year apart, they’d meet again on the outside in July 1948.  Walked into Earl Ambrose’ Tavern once on Fifth Avenue, shot the owner dead and wounded a woman. 

Daniels and West proved the name when going on a crime spree.  Daniels was quoted later during an interview, “[we loved] drinking, robbing and hitting on girls”. 

Then, on a drunken night, they recalled all of the Mansfield guards who abused them.  Going over names.  Talking of what they’d do to them.  Revenge then landing on one name.  The worst in the Mad-Dog’s eyes. 

Robert Daniels Mad Dog Killer Plaque - Mansfield Reformatory
Historic Plaque marking the end of a killing spree

His name was Willis “Red” Harris.  Getting madder while going back and forth with stories.

Revenge was worth a trip back to Mansfield.

Daniels Show his Violence – Niebel Family

Only 2 weeks after killing the tavern owner, Daniels knocked on the door of John Niebel.  Niebel was Mansfield Reformatory’s farm supervisor. 

Why Niebel?  It’s said they couldn’t find Red’s house.  Not knowing it was only a short walk from the Niebel household.  The psycho’s only wanted revenge and didn’t care who was the victim.

They took John, his wife Phyllis and their daughter into the farm field.  Forced them on their knees as Daniels put a gun to each of their heads and fired.  No delay or hesitation.  

There’s no report of how West reacted to the murders.

My guess, he blindly followed Daniels without thought or consideration.  This comes to light when the ‘mad-dog killers’ met their end.

Chased Down

Enter the very effective Van Wert County Police. 

During a routine traffic stop.  Daniels and West confronted by an officer.  Daniels remaining calm.  Maybe it was West’s nervousness that tipped them off. 

US-224 & OH-637 – Marker shows where shoot-out occurred – MAP

Daniels stayed put as West freaked out.  Pulled a gun and started shooting at the cops as he ducked behind the truck.

Now alone and unsure, he turns and shoots at the officers.  Hits a Sergeant who fell to the ground, rolled and fired back.  Got West right between the eyes.

Daniels was arrested.  Easily found guilty and sentenced to death. 

Robert Daniels Mad Dog Killer Movietone - Mansfield Reformatory
Movietone Broadcast & Article of the killer

And as a death row inmate, the Movietone News, an early version of Fox News, interviewed him.

 A dramatic conversation followed.  Daniels repeating his official confession,

“I just wanted Red … I’m sorry the wife and daughter had to die. There was no rope! [to tie them up] … After my score was settled with Red, I’d be ready to die.  I haven’t got it settled, but guess I’ll die anyhow.”

 Then Daniels did something that became the iconic picture we known today.  He winked at the audience.  Everyone was stunned.

 And only 6 months later, on January 3rd, 1949, Robert Daniels died in the electric chair. 

Murderer Robert Daniels Grave in Union Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio

Now buried in Union Cemetery in Columbus.

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