Killing the Prophet (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

With two sisters who were part of Creffield's cult, George Mitchell felt ample justification for killing the man who had "seduced" them. After the shooting, he made no attempt to escape and calmly waited for the police to arrive. As he would later tell the police who arrested him, "I came here to kill that man, as he ruined the lives of my two sisters, and I have done my work". He made a full confession and later sent a telegram to a friend stating that "I got my man. I'm in jail here."

Creffield was given a pauper's burial in Seattle's Lakeview Cemetery with Maude Creffield as the only mourner (the other followers were in Oregon).  Maude firmly believed that her husband would rise after four days and kept constant watch on the grave.  After weeks of waiting, she concluded that his rising would be "spiritual rather than corporeal."   Maude's vigil was only part of the drama that made George Mitchell's trial so sensational, though.   Were it not for the Harry Thaw trial that was going on at the same time in New York City, Mitchell's trial would have likely been front-page news across the country.

Esther Mitchell, George's sister and one of Creffield's followers, came to Seattle to watch the trial with Maude Creffield.  She was especially scornful at her brother's insistence that Franz Creffield had "ruined" her and had no hesitation in saying so.   Since George Mitchell's lawyers based his defense on the "unwritten law" allowing a man to commit murder to protect his family members from "debauchery", Esther's refusal to say that Creffield had seduced her made things awkward.  They also called in various witnesses as well as a forensic specialist to testify on George Mitchell's state of mind to invoke the insanity defense.

The defense worked since the quiet consensus of the court and most of the witnesses was that Mitchell was a hero for killing the bizarre prophet.   After twenty-five minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty and the entire courtroom then burst into applause as various women congratulated Mitchell. His victory would be  short-lived however.    On July 12, 1906, George Mitchell was preparing to return home in triumph when by his sister, Esther approached him at the Union Depot in Seattle. She had come down to the station to see her brother leave for Portland. After greeting him with a smile and a handshake, she then shot her brother in the back of his head as he turned away from her . The gun had been purchased for her by Maude Creffield.

Much as her brother had when he killed Creffield, Esther simply stood there after the shooting as she waited to be arrests.   She showed no emotion as she explained that, since George had "killed God", Esther felt perfectly justified in killing him in turn.   Both she and Maude Creffield had planned the killing after it became clear that George would be freed.   It was Maude who had provided the gun and told Esther to kill her brother as soon as a good opportunity became available. Maude Creffield was arrested as well and the news of the murder shocked the nation.  It even knocked the Harry Thaw coverage off the front pages for a change.

If Maude and Esther had hoped for any kind of clemency from the courts, they quickly found out otherwise. Since George Mitchell was viewed as a hero, his murderers had no support whatsoever.  A few weeks after her arrest, Maude Creffield was found dead of an apparent suicide. She had taken strychnine that had somehow been smuggled into her cell (nobody ever figured out how).

Left to face the music alone, Esther Mitchell was eventually declared not guilty due to insanity and sent to Washington State Asylum.   She was released after three years when asylum doctors declared her cured and "thoroughly disgusted with herself".   Although she moved to Waldport, Oregon and later married at the age of 26, she committed suicide by taking strychnine after being a bride for only three months.

Creffield's church never really survived his death although a number of his followers settled in the Waldport area near the site of his proposed "Garden of Eden."   Many of their descendants still live in the area. While it may be a total coincidence, on September 14, 1975, a meeting was held in Waldport's Bay Shore Inn. Three hundred people gathered to listen to a most unusual couple who described themselves as "The Two" as they outlined their own apocalyptic beliefs.    Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles gained a number of followers in Waldport for their new Heaven's Gate cult.    Whether any of them might have been descended from Creffield's original followers isn't known.

Franz Edmund Creffield might have approved.


Related Stories

  • The Great Deceiver
  • Killing The Prophet (Part 1)
  • Shooting Dr. Tourette


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