Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frances Creighton & Everett Appelgate

I Only Had Sex Once

On the third day of the trial, Everett Appelgate was called to the stand in his own defense. The chubby, fair-haired, under-sized Appelgate sauntered to the witness chair under the watchful eyes of the jury. His attorney, Charles R. Weeks, felt if the jury could see the man on a one-to-one basis, they would have some sympathy for him. But Appelgate's demeanor on the stand, which included mood swings of anger, defiance, cockiness, submissiveness, remorse and deceit, worked against him. His relationship with Ruth proved to be the noose around his neck.

"Did you ever use your relationship with Ruth as a pretext for killing your wife?" asked the prosecutor.

"That would be the furthest thing from my thoughts," Appelgate replied.

But oddly enough, the most damaging questioning came from Appelgate's own defense team. Weeks, eager to save his client from the electric chair, decided to bring Appelgate's relationship with Ruth to the forefront. He thought that if the jury would agree to send Appelgate to prison on rape charges, they might absolve him of murder. But his presentation on the stand repulsed the jury and only increased their suspicion of the defendant's motives.

"With his full curved lips in a half smile," said the News of his testimony, "he denied that he had anything to do with the murder of his huge wife." He denied that he had ever had sex with Frances Creighton but he freely admitted having sex with Ruth. He said that he, Ada and 14-year-old Ruth frequently slept nude in the same bed.

"I only had sex with Ruth once when Ada was in the bed," he said.

"We have a picture of your wife and Ruth and you in this bed nude, is that right?" said Littleton.

"That is right," Appelgate replied.

"Do you want the court and the jury to believe that in a bed of those dimensions, you had an act of sexual intercourse with this girl without your wife knowing about it?" asked Littleton.

"Certainly," said Appelgate, "it is the truth." Point by point, every detail of his sexual conquests of Frances and her teenage daughter were explored. Appelgate was forced to describe his sex games with Ruth, even as her mother worked in the kitchen and Ada snored in bed just a few feet away. Self-absorbed, arrogant and cocky to the point of obnoxiousness, Appelgate sealed his own fate. By the time he crawled off the witness stand, the jury loathed him. When he was taken down the hallway back to his cell, police had to hold back an angry crowd who shouted insults at the terrified defendant. Some spectators were able to break free and managed to punch Appelgate several times as he ran for cover.

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