Unlocking History

Cemetery Tales: Mystery of JC Ripley

Cemetery Tales featured image background of San Quentin Prison cemetery with two superimposed photos of JC Riley and the mystery of his grave marker.
The San Quentin Museum requested help identifying a grave marker with the number 29855. Inside CDCR took up the challenge.

The latest in the Cemetery Tales series began as a bit of a mystery for longtime San Quentin Museum volunteer Jeff Craemer.

“I have another mysterious marker for you to identify,” Craemer writes. “The number is 29855. Who is this person and what is his story?”

According to California State Archives, number 29855 was assigned to John Ripley, alias JC Elliott. His occupation is listed as a barber.

He was received at San Quentin from Los Angeles County for a parole violation on Aug. 16, 1916.

Ripley previously served five years of a seven-year term, sentenced in San Mateo County in 1910. During his earlier commitment for grand larceny, he was assigned number 24460.

He was paroled May 8, 1915, but violated his parole conditions. According to prison records, in August 1916, he was convicted of second-degree burglary and given a five-year sentence, thus landing him back in San Quentin.

“Returned (and) lost all credits. New sentence eats up old,” is scribbled on one of the prison records.

Ripley was born in Pennsylvania some time around 1868.

He died in the prison hospital Oct. 18, 1916, only a few months after his re-incarceration. Since Ripley’s body was unclaimed, he was buried in the San Quentin prison cemetery.

Inside CDCR scoured news accounts from 1910 and 1916, but were unable to find more information regarding his original crime or how he passed away.

Story by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Photos of JC Ripley ranging from 1910 to 1916:

Learn more about California prison history.

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