CRIME HUNTER: Black Widow’s Death Design for Her Daughter’s Love Rival


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The coroner ruled that clogged arteries were the likely cause of heavyweight Ada Applegate’s death.

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Tipping the scales at 250 pounds, Ada was chronically unhealthy and bedridden most of the time in her Long Island bungalow.

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When she died on September 27, 1935, her husband Everett was at her bedside when she met his maker. A little tragedy in the cosmos, isn’t it? Bad.

At Ada’s funeral four days after her death, cops rushed in and stopped the proceedings. They grabbed the large corpse and drove off, detectives suspecting there was more to his death.

In many homicide investigations (see Forensic files), detectives usually focus on the husband, wife, sister, brother, daughter, son, boyfriend… and as far as poor Ada is concerned, that’s exactly what they did, but it wasn’t Everett.

Unlikely Lothario Everett Applegate had a threesome with his wife and 15-year-old Ruth Creighton.  NYDAILY NEWS/ GETTY IMAGES
Unlikely Lothario Everett Applegate had a threesome with his wife and 15-year-old Ruth Creighton. NYDAILY NEWS/ GETTY IMAGES

Mary Frances Creighton lived with Ada and her husband on Long Island.

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The tip came from a disgruntled bread delivery boy who grumpy Mary often stiffened.

But the cops had received a bunch of yellowed newspaper clippings that told a sordid story. The oldest denomination dates from 1923.

It appears Mary has been charged with murder in the death of her 18-year-old brother, Ray. An autopsy revealed he died of arsenic poisoning. Mary would benefit financially from his death but she was acquitted.

Her stepmother also met an untimely demise, thanks to a spoonful of arsenic. It was a strong circumstantial case and there were other mysterious deaths linked to Mary. But again, she walked.

The story fills the newspapers.  DAILY NY NEWS
The story fills the newspapers. DAILY NY NEWS

Now, in the Great Depression year of 1935, cops were taking another look at the death of Ada Applegate. Unsurprisingly, the medical examiner found arsenic.

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But the story would take a particularly heartbreaking turn after Mary bowed down during interrogation and confessed.

Mary told detectives that she, her husband John and her two children had moved from New Jersey to Long Island. It seems the notoriety of the alleged killer was hanging over their heads and they wanted a fresh start.

Everett Applegate and John Creighton had met at the American Legion. Both men were veterans of the First World War and they were both broke.


But Everett had an idea: the Creighton family would move into the Applegate house apartment. For Everett – whom friends called Appy – it was a no-brainer. There was also the bonus of 16-year-old Ruth Creighton, whom he had started having sex with.

Later, Mary admitted that she caught the couple indulging in carnal capers. Like many devoted moms, she feared that Ruth would get knocked up. If she reversed Ada, her daughter could marry Appy.

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Investigators didn’t see it that way and arrested Everett for statutory rape. He happily confessed to the sex accusation.

He hadn’t expected Mary to launch a torpedo on the right ship Everett. She told detectives that her daughter’s illicit lover loaded Ada’s eggnog with an arsenic-based concoction called Rough on Rats.

Even though Mary sang like a canary, she kept changing her story. She told the cops she was having sex with Everett, when she wasn’t, the way Ada was poisoned also changed.

On January 9, 1936, Mary and Everett were tried for capital murder on Long Island. Newspaper coverage was wall to wall and 24 hours a day.

The court and reporters then heard Mary recount Ruth’s “inappropriate” romantic antics with the unlikely Don Juan. Sometimes they even had sex in the bedroom while her daughter was there.

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On the witness stand, Mary Creighton broke down and confessed everything. She knew Everett was making the deadly arsenic cocktail and she would make sure Ada drank it.

Ruth Creighton, 16, was the object of Everett Applegates desires.  NY DAILY NEWS/ GETTY IMAGES
Ruth Creighton, 16, was the object of Everett Applegates desires. NY DAILY NEWS/ GETTY IMAGES

In the background of the proceedings, Old Sparky, New York State’s notorious electric chair, buzzing with death upriver at Sing Sing Jail, beckoned.

Although the judge initially wouldn’t allow Mary’s previous murderous antics to be introduced into the proceedings, he changed his mind after Everett’s attorney revealed that she had offered to sell her story on the Jersey murders to a real detective magazine.

But Appy turned out to be a bad savior for himself. He testified to a threesome with his wife and young Ruth having fun naked together in the marital bed.

“I only had sex with Ruth once when Ada was in bed,” Everett told the court, breaking his lawyer’s bet to portray him as a sexual deviant but not a killer.

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Mary and Everett were found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair.

“This verdict will never hold up on appeal,” Appy told the New York Daily News. “Stay around, I’m coming home soon.”

He was wrong.

The mental faculties of hard-hearted Mary Frances Creighton imploded on death row. And when the time came for her to die on July 19, 1936, she had to be taken to the death chamber.

Moments later, Appy said to the assembled ghouls, “Gentlemen. I want to say something. Before God, gentlemen, I am absolutely innocent of this crime and I hope that the good Lord will have mercy on the soul of Martin W. Littleton.

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