February 3, 2005 by

Priscilla Ford


Categories: Criminals

Priscilla Joyce Ford, a mass murderer and the only woman on Nevada’s death row, died on Jan. 29. Cause of death was not released. She was 75.
On Nov. 27, 1980, Thanksgiving Day, Ford was driving north on Virginia Street in Reno, Nev. Going about 40 mph, she intentionally steered her blue Lincoln Continental onto the crowded sidewalk and mowed down as many people as she could. Seven pedestrians died and 23 were injured in the incident.
Ford fled the scene, but stopped in traffic five blocks later. Police caught up with her at a red light and placed her under arrest. As she was given tests to determine her blood alcohol level — it was .162 — Ford called her victims “beasts” and “pigs.” A plea of not guilty by reason of insanity was entered on Ford’s behalf and the judge ordered her to undergo mental health treatment so she would be competent to stand trial.
The six-month trial featured 93 witnesses and more than 500 exhibits; at the time, it was the longest and most expensive in Reno history. Ford took the stand in her own defense and told the court that she was the spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and Adam reincarnate. Prosecutors argued that she knew the difference between right and wrong.
In March 1982, the jury convicted Ford of six counts of murder and 23 counts of attempted murder, and sentenced her to die in Nevada’s gas chamber. Over the next two decades, Ford’s execution dates were set and stayed several times. Although the state appeals process ended in 1989, her federal appeals continued to challenge the death sentence.
When asked why she murdered the innocent bystanders, Ford originally blamed the event on “voices,” then said she did it to get attention for her daughter’s case. In 1973, her 11-year-old daughter was sent to the county’s juvenile detention center after Ford was arrested for trespassing and assault. Ford later accused the authorities of kidnapping the girl. In 1985, Ford claimed she didn’t remember the incident, but said she was ready “to die every day.”
A Michigan native, Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in education and worked for several years as a teacher. She began seeking treatment for mental illness in 1970, and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with violent tendencies. Ford claimed to have god-like powers and the ability to smite those who crossed her, however, she refused to stay on her medication.
Prior to the killings, Ford was working at a Macy’s department store in Reno as a gift-wrapper. She spent the rest of her life on death row at the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas.

21 Responses to Priscilla Ford

  1. TH

    I remember that Thanksgiving Day well.
    It happened at 2:59 PM, and I started my evening shift at St. Mary’s Hospital at 3:00. I was directly involved with saving the lives of the victims of this tragedy.
    While it is always difficult to hear about the end of a life, I feel less grief about Ms. Ford; I was with the victims. In reply to “joe” above, the tragedy is that this was not avoided beforehand.
    This is in tribute to all the victims. Myself and all my co-workers gave everything we could to help you. That’s what we do. You’re welcome.

  2. JCR

    Another anniversary approaches….I have little sympathy for Pricilla, I have less sympathy for the woman guilty of setting a fire and killing the tenants of the Mizpah Hotel. I hope both these women are roommates in Hell!

  3. Kate

    I knew her as Mrs. Scott. She taught me from Kindergarten through 3rd grade in a one-room country school. She was a good teacher and a good woman then. What happens to a person? What happened to make her go crazy? My family was all home watching tv when this horrible event came on the news. We were dumbfounded. I feel very sorry for the people who lost friends and family that day and for the people who were injured. But it’s just too weird.

  4. TWH

    For some reason, I thought of Ms. Ford and wondered if and investigation was ever done into her passing. That is how I found this. When her death was announced, it just didn’t sound right. I never knew her to have respiratory problems, maybe a little dementia, but not respiratory. I worked at SNWCF, the facility that she was housed in. As an inmate, she was never any problem…it almost felt like having your grandmother locked up. It was tough to fathom the horrific crime she committed…well spoken, well read, and well educated. This event needs to highlight the need for more mental health care availability in this country.

  5. Bev

    I find it very ironic that Ms. Ford is remembered, but no mention of the victims’ names are found in any account of that horrible Thanksgiving day. My aunt was one of the victims, does anyone remember her name. To Doug above, I wish she had not decided to “shine on” Reno on Thanksgiving 1980

  6. Thomas

    I’m glad we don’t have to feed her any more. She was nothing more than a waste of tax money. She should have been put on a side walk and ran over like her victims!!!!!

  7. leo koschella

    Prisclla Ford murdered my father on his way to my house on thanksgiving day. waiting for him to arrive I was watching t.v.. A news reporter interupted the program. News footage showed the carrnage, there in the center of my screen lay the body of my father! Thanksgiving has not been a day of thanksgiving from that day on!!!!!!

  8. brad w.

    although i don’t support thedeath penalty, i’m glad a lot of people could get some type of closure….we shall always remember the victms, and thier families and friends………

  9. Tracey

    As an inmate os SNWCC I got the pleasure of meeting Ms.Ford while in segregation.She was a light at the end of my tunnel she once told me while going to a dr app God does everything for a reason and Ive found this to be true everyday Ms Ford you are missed Tracey

  10. Virginia A. Sriver

    I still think of Priscilla today. I was shocked when I heard of the horrific incident and feel badly for the families of those who died and were injured. Priscilla and I were always close when we were attending Cass County Normal School and often attended school meetings in the Berrien County School District. She will always be remembered as a friend, a good Christian, and a good person. 12-20-07

  11. mike

    Priscilla death is unexpectedly done.I am shocked about that news.Their family in very bad position.
    Nevada Alcohol Addiction Treatment

  12. donna

    I do recall long ago of my personal issues during my stay in ad. seg. I also remember talking with Pricilla@ times and always she carried a kind thing to say to those of us around her. Love ya

  13. John P

    I was on the first BJ table at Harrah’s entrance on Virginia Street. She deserves the death penalty. You can’t imagine what being there was like.

  14. natpeezi

    this lady was a good woman i was locked up with her and she is the booomb i love her and miss her and my blessings are with her family and friends. ms for we miss you much love. natpeezi 02-05

  15. Elizabeth Reed

    People have the tendency to judge others, while making a judgement is inherit in our rights we must do so with great caution for our own good. This is because and while we stand pointing the finger at others for what they have done, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. If that were the case no stones would be cast. Further there are more ways to kill someone then murdering them, this is taboo in a society that disregards social justice. Moses was a murderer who became a man of god, the most influential beside Jesus. I pray that those with judgements have the vested authority to doing so.

  16. Sally

    How can one put someone with mental health problems on Death Row?! Nevada is so ass backwards!!! How can any “well” person with a smidge of intelligence condemn a person with mental health problems?! Its a goddamn shame and a sham!!!!

  17. Joe Schmoe

    Given the countless cases of people on – or recently off – psychiatric drugs engaging in uncharacteristic acts of extreme violence, one can’t help but wonder if that might not have been the case w/ Ms. Ford.
    My condolences to the victims killed and maimed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *