Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Frances Creighton & Everett Appelgate

No Damn Good!

Everett Appelgate under arrest
Everett Appelgate under arrest

In the meantime, the autopsy on Ada was completed by the New York City's Medical Examiner's office and a report was sent over to the Nassau Police. The M.E. had found 9.6 grains of arsenic in Ada's body, over 3 times the amount needed to cause death. Frances Creighton and Everett Appelgate were arrested on the morning of October 9, 1935. The press reaction was immediate and predictable. Frances was vilified as an incompetent mother who offered up her daughter to the lascivious Appelgate. "A modern Borgia" was the most common phrase used to describe her in the New York newspapers. When she was taken out of court, according to a Daily News story, "her eyes rolled wildly and if possible, her skin became of an even more unearthly pallor." Appelgate was described as "gross-looking" and "pudgy-faced with a face flushed a strange purple color."

As detectives probed the background of Creighton and Appelgate at Bryant Place, they discovered a curious incident that involved one of their neighbors. In 1930, Frances was accused of stealing a pair of gloves from a neighbor in Baldwin. Although friends had observed her wearing the gloves, Frances strongly denied the charge. She became friendly with the neighbor's family and invited three of her nieces over for some cocoa, which Frances lovingly prepared. On the way home, all three nieces became violently ill. One nearly died. The illness was never explained. A short time later, this same neighbor's home was set on fire. Detectives later found that the foundation of the house had been soaked in kerosene. Though Frances was the prime suspect, no arrests were made.

Prior to the murder trial, which was scheduled to begin in January 1936, Frances changed her confessions several times. At first she implicated Appelgate. In a second confession, she exonerated him saying that he had nothing to do with the murder and he didn't even know that she bought arsenic for the purpose of giving it to Ada. In a third confession, she said that it was Appelgate's idea all along in order to get rid of his wife so that he could be free to have Ruth. The titillating story of intimate relations between the sexy teenager and the pompous clerk aroused the public, and most press accounts of the era exploited the situation for all it was worth. Appelgate generated very little sympathy for himself and his image as a child seducer only intensified public opinion against him.

The case made national headlines and soon, a flood of angry letters poured into the Nassau County Police Department and the District Attorney's office. One writer, who professed to know Frances Creighton personally, said "it would be characteristic for a degenerate like her to do all these things - she is well known in Newark - or her sex mad mania!" Frances also received threatening letters in jail, which she turned over to the police. "A lousy prostitute that's what you are!" another wrote, "You are no damn good - you are the worse kind of people, and the sooner the electric chair gets you, the better society will profit. You sure are low. Low as can be!" People were also incensed at the almost incredible gullibility of Frances' husband, John. "They ought to take your husband and send him up for twenty-five hard years, at Sing Sing, where you'll burn," wrote one man from New York City. "He is a rat, a big stinking rat! He is no father, he is a skunk, a coward, a big bum, a hypocrite and he is your better half." One long letter castigated Frances at length about her sexual preferences. "She is an immoral woman," the writer said, "who has a mania for degeneracy for women as well as men!"

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