Brief by Central Staff
Alfred Packer – May 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine
He did the time, but not for that crime
One Cañon City tourist attraction has a catchy slogan: “Do Time with Us.”
Complete with a gas chamber where 32 men were executed, the Colorado Territorial Prison Museum also offers “the actual hangman’s noose of the last man executed by hanging in the state of Colorado, confiscated inmate weapons and contraband … displays of disciplinary paraphernalia used from 1871 to present.”
We also read, in the brochure, that it “housed inmates such as Alfred Packer, the only man ever convicted in the United States for cannibalism.”
Alfred (or Alferd, as he preferred) Packer was never convicted of cannibalism.
In his first trial, in 1883 in Lake City, he was convicted of murder. The verdict was overturned on appeal, and a second trial was held in 1886 in Gunnison.
There Packer was convicted of five counts of manslaughter, given eight years for each (consecutively), and sent to the penitentiary in Cañon City, where he did time until he was paroled in 1901.
But he was never convicted of cannibalism. Nor could he have been. According to Chaffee County Judge Bill Alderton, a former prosecutor, cannibalism has never been illegal in Colorado, so no one can be charged with it, let alone convicted.