Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frances Creighton & Everett Appelgate

Mother Is Going Away

In his summation to the jury, defense attorney Weeks came down hard on his client for having sex with Ruth. "In crushing, sneering tones," said the New York Daily News the next day, "he proclaimed him a seducer, whom all red-blooded men would despise. He promised the jurors Appelgate would go to prison for that role, but asked release on the murder charge."

Mary Frances Creighton & her attorney in court
Mary Frances Creighton & her attorney
in court

Mrs. Creighton's defense attorney appealed to the jury's compassion for a woman led wrong by the power of an evil man. "Elvin N. Edwards, in his final address, characterized the plump, self-confessed Borgia as "a woman of putty manipulated by a man of steel," said the Daily News story, "Appelgate, he declared, dominated her in all that transpired in the curious household."

The jury deliberated for just four hours. On January 25, at 12:47 a.m., the verdict was announced to a courtroom packed with over 200 spectators, half of them women. Also present were dozens of Appelgate's legionnaire friends who supported him throughout the trial. Guards brought Appelgate in first. Several minutes later, prison matrons led Frances to the defense table. Both defendants were found guilty of first-degree murder. Mrs. Creighton appeared "chalky-white," said the New York Post, "but the plump, brown-gowned Borgia gave no outward signs of dismay." Appelgate took the verdict without reaction.

On January 29, both defendants returned to Nassau County court to hear the inevitable. Judge Cortland A. Johnson sentenced them to die in the electric chair during the week of March 9, just five weeks away. After sentencing, Appelgate asked the judge to speak.

"I would like to say, your Honor, that I thank you for your courtesy," he said, "and for the fairness of your charges to the jury. I want to state that at that time I knew nothing and had nothing to do with the purchase or with the administration of arsenic poisoning." His pleas, however, moved no one. "Borgia and her Paramour Get Chair for Poisoning!" read the headline in the News the next day.

Before she was led out of the courtroom, Frances wrote a letter to her daughter, which was published in the New York Times.

"Dear Ruth,

Mother is going away. No matter what has happened to you in your life, be a good girl and look after the best man you will ever have, your fatherYou and Jackie (John Jr.) are all that Daddy has. Make every effort to help in this trying situation. I love you all. Please pray for me.

Lovingly, Mother."

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