top of page
Light and Shadow



       The second journey is the author's own starting in 2017. The author traces the tight hold that this tale had on her and follows the story through the acquisition of the original trial transcript, a visit to the still standing home that was the sight of the murder (with the amazing discovery of the concave bullet wound in the door from 1919), and research over six years in and ancestry. com.

       Most second braid stories relate to and follow occurrences in the first braid. This second braid argues for the transformational possibilities that reckoning with our ancestor offers all of us. The author has written letters to Elmer in his grave explaining to him how political events and attitudes that encircled him in 1919 prevented any chance for mercy, and trace his how his trauma has intergenerational epigenetic influences on the lives of his brother's children and grandchildren.

Synopsis of Braid 3

90K  Dual Timeline


Historical Non-Fiction

1st POV Narratives

What if, while rooting in your family tree, you unearth a great uncle, who in 1920, was the youngest man electrocuted at Sing Sing Death House, and then you feel destined to resurrect his long lost story and prison narrative, and you feel compelled to write letters to him, revealing how events of his time sealed his fate, and how his tragedy impacted two generations of his brother's descendants. 

Synopsis of Braid 1

Synopsis of Braid 2

     In the 1920 Sing Sing Death House, a young man, my grandfather's brother, has a haunting regret for missing the fighting in France. He awaits his punishment for killing a police office in Rochester, New York. War veterans are retuning home and filling the

streets looking for work but there are not jobs for them or for him. So this young man

turns to thieving. 

     One one evening, May 2, 1919, at the end of a two week spree of petit larceny,

he has a borrowed and loaded gun. As he is exiting the back porch door to 290 Garson Avenue, he is surprised by a police officer and while in the process of putting is

hands up, he is fired upon by the officer. He fires back in self defense. Each man's

bullet strikes the other, but the bullet from the gun of the thief rips through the aorta

of the patrolman. The gun battle between them remains confused, but the police

officer is dead before his cheek hits the side of the porch.

     This one moment changes forever the life of the boy who fired the gun the city of Rochester, and criminal law in the State of New York. As as the author deliniates added unrecognized trauma to the lives of his brother's children and grandchildren.

       The only thing that he wants is to serve in WW1 like his brother, who at the time

of the murder, was in the Army of Occupation at the Koblenz Bridgehead after

fighting in Belleau Wood and being wounded at Chateau Thierry. He joins the

New York Guard but cannot enlist in the Army because the Army physical finds

his vision and pulmonary status deficient.

     As his own execution date is pusher deeper into 1920, he is tormented watching

his fellow inmates being taken through the Little Door and yet, hopes for commutation

of his sentence to life in prison. After denying that his only way out of Sing Sing is in a coffin, he is forced to acknowledge that his ending is in sight.

     His desire to live to prove his inherent goodness enables him to endure his

incarceration and legal denials. His deeper conflict is evident in his regretful

feelings about the killing of a single man set up against his desire to kill many

men in war. His awareness of the man that he might have been emerges while

he faces his own death with the bravery go a soldier ordered "over the top"

into no man's land.

       Longer journalistic stories of several persons contemporary to Braid One. These persons serve as a Greek chorus commenting on and summarizing the action and telling how the trial and murder has affected them.  These persons include two of the jurors, one journalist who follows the trial and attends the execution, and two of Elmer's fellow inmates. 

PENNED will appeal to readers of historical nonfiction about immediately

post WW1, 1920 New York State politics, prison narratives, and capital

punishment focusing on electrocution.

PENNED will also appeal to genealogy buffs using tools and apps of a

now multi billion dollar industry tracing the effects of intergenerational

trauma and epigenetic inheritances to consider all the ways the getting

to know ancestors can help gain perspective on ourselves.


About Me.

Image 5-12-23 at 1.59 PM.jpeg

Diane Milhan has terminal degrees in three disciplines and still speculates how things might have been different if she had majored in English and Classics at Florida State University.  Diane Milhan is the 2023 Winner of the Rose Post Creative NonFiction Award made by the North Carolina Writer's Network. Her previous writings have been in support of various faculty positions with the longest tenure at the University of Miami, where she was an Associate Professor in the School of Education. She was a stringer for the Miami Herald, writing concert reviews. She was often alone in the empty, spooky press room overlooking Biscayne Bay at two o'clock in the morning to make deadlines. She is currently practicing acupuncturist with a private practice in North Carolina. This novel is the result of a creation of a family tree for a reunion of cousins in 2017.  Our Uncle Elmer was unearthed and let loose to haunt.  

Parallel Lines

The opening of the Sing Sing Prison Museum in Ossining, New York is scheduled for 2024 or 2025. This book is in alignment with the first goal of the museum which is to  "humanize the stories of the prison and ... become a prominent voice in the national conversation about social and criminal justice."


Elmer was in Sing Sing Death House from October of 1919 to July of 1920. Elmer's fellow inmates, the prison staff and prominent outsiders are historical figures. Dates and events are researched  from Sing Sing Prison records, contemporary newspapers and the Rochester trial transcript. 

Sections include famous New Yorkers of the time.

Governor AL SMITH, in the second year of his initial governorship. As the days tick by for Elmer in June and July of 1920, Smith is across the continent at the 1920 San Francisco Democratic convention where is name is placed in nomination for the presidential race.

LEWIS LAWES arrives as the new warden in Elmer's third month on Death Row.

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (NELLIE BLY) becomes the first woman to witness and electric chair death. This is the electrocution death of Gordon Hamby, one of Elmer's inmate friends. 

Rochester politics with the Tammany Hall political machine equivalent infer GEORGE WASHINGTON ALDRIDGE contributes to Elmer's demise because the policmen in the gum battle was the husband of an Aldridge underboss's youngest daughter.

Get in Touch

700 Country Club Road, Mount Airy, NC 27030

office 336-755-2158

cell 3367566588

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Thanks for submitting!


bottom of page