CSI: 1906 Style

Forensics Before There Were Fancy Gizmos to Perform Tests.

Newspaper stories about autopsies connected to the Holy Roller case in 1906 make for some interesting reading.

George Mitchell was killed just days after he had been found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, so his brain was scrutinized to see if it showed abnormalities.

A few months later, one of his murderers, Maud Hurt Creffield, committed suicide and the chemist who studied her stomach contents went into great detail as to how he came by his findings. I would not suggest trying this at home.

George Mitchell's Autopsy George Mitchell


Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/14/1906 p1

Shows Mitchell Had Normal Brain

Post Mortem Fails To Disclose Any Trace Of Mental Derangement

Surprise To Physicians

Believe The Man Was Perfectly Sane At The Time He Killed Carefield

Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/14/1906 p1

George Mitchell Was Not Insane

Post-Mortem Examination Reveals Fact that Brain of Young Man Who Killed Holy Roller Creffield was in Normal Condition--Believed Discovery Will Have Important Bearing on Trial of Esther Mitchell.

That George Mitchell was as sane as any ordinary individual when he killed “Joshua” Creffield is the opinion of the physicians who performed the post mortem examination. The brain was subjected to an exceptionally close scrutiny and was found absolutely normal. This fact was brought out by the doctors after the brain had been removed and subjected to a careful examination. Every convolution was perfect. In place of denoting anything abnormal the organ appeared to have been well developed and to have belonged to a man of more than average intelligence.

Although the jury which sat upon the case returned a verdict acquitting Mitchell of responsibility for the slaying of Creffield on the ground of insanity, there was nothing in the brain of the man to indicate that he was not in his right senses when he fired the shot which ended the life of the Holy Roller.


Under the supervision of Coroner F. M. Carroll the post-mortem examination was held in the Bonney-Watson undertaking rooms yesterday. Dr. J. B. Loughary handled the knife. The surgeons were surprised to learn that the bullet had not touched the brain. It had entered the skull just to the rear and about even with the lobe of the left ear. Ploughing its way through the skull it lodged in the bone of the right jaw. The carotid artery was severed and death was due to a hemorrhage. the ball had caused several fractures of the interior bones of the head and pieces of lead were picked out of the skull in its track.

The question of the greatest interest to the medical men present was not the course of the ball, but the appearance of the brain, and as soon as it was removed from the skull the physicians crowded around it. The fact that Mitchell had been acquitted of the murder charge on the ground of insanity led the medical men to expect to find some evidence of mental disorder. Every portion of the organ was found to be perfect, and the doctors agreed that the man must have been as sane as any one else. This came as a surprise to them and caused several of the medical men to remark that a miscarriage of justice had taken place when Mitchell was acquitted of the murder charge on the ground of insanity.

Coroner Carroll stated that so far as could be determined the brain was absolutely normal and his opinion was borne out by a number of the other surgeons present.


This fact is expected to have important bearing on the trial of Esther Mitchell and Maud Creffield. The fact that Mitchell was acquitted for the murder of Creffield on the ground of insanity and found to have a perfectly normal brain will be made use of by the prosecution when the two women are placed on trial for murder.

The physicians stated that it was possible for a person to be temporarily insane and that no trace would be discovered in the brain. In the case of chronic insanity some trace would have been found. In the case of Mitchell it was claimed he had brooded and schemed on the murder of Creffield for months, in which case it would have been chronic and traces would have been found.

Bonney Watson Funeral ParlorOregon Daily Journal (Portland) 7/14/1906 p8

Both Killed in Same Way

Bullet Entered Mitchell’s Head Nearly Same Place He Hit Creffield.

(Special Dispatch to The Journal.)

Seattle, Wash., July 14.--That George Mitchell was sane at the time he shot apostle “Joshua” Creffield is the opinion of the surgeon who performed the autopsy upon Mitchell’s body at the morgue of Bonney, Watson & Co. late yesterday afternoon. Mitchell’s brain was removed and found to be well developed. The convolutions were almost perfect.

The surgeons, among whom was Dr. Loughary, expert on insanity and former assistant superintendent of the state asylum for the insane at Steilacoom, declare that if Mitchell had ever been insane his brain would not have been in such perfect condition. It was perfectly normal.

Within one inch of the spot at which the bullet from George Mitchell’s revolver entered Creffield’s head, that of his sister entered his. Esther Mitchell declared that she intended to hit her brother at exactly the same spot that his bullet his Creffield, because she knew his death would be certain. The bullet from her revolver entered Mitchell’s head on about a level with the center lobe of the right ear. The bullet that killed Creffield entered about an inch higher in a straight line.

The autopsy showed that the bullet tore through the skull and lodged in the right jawbone. The carotid artery was cut and death resulted from a hemorrhage. The skull was badly fractured.

Seattle Star 7/13/1906 p1

Will Hold a Post-Mortem

Coroner Carroll will hold a post-mortem examination of the remains of George Mitchell late this afternoon, possible at 5 o’clock. No arrangements have been made as to the future disposition of the body. The two brothers here express a wish to bury the boy by the side of his mother in Eugene, Ore., but they have no money and their only recourse is to appeal to charity.

The results of the post-mortem will be made known to the prosecuting attorney’s office. It will be largely a matter of form.

Any prosecution will depend entirely upon the report of medical examiners at the girl’s insanity. Dr., J. B. Loughary, who examined the Mitchell girl at the jail last evening today absolutely refused to divulge any opinion that he may have formed. This will be given to the prosecuting attorney and is for the information of that official only.

Seattle Star 7/14/1906 p1

Brain Shows No Insanity

Physicians Say George Mitchell Was Normal At Conclusion Of Post Mortem Examination.

George Mitchell’s brain was normal and he was as sane as any ordinary person when he shot Edmund Creffield. This is the verdict of the doctors who made a post-mortem examination at the morgue yesterday.

Coroner F. M. Carroll supervised the examination and Dr. J. B. Loughary handled the knife. Owing to the fact that Mitchell had been acquitted on a plea of temporary insanity, the doctors were interested in the appearance of his brain.


This was removed entirely and subjected to a close and exhausting scrutiny. It was the unanimous opinion of the experts in attendance that Mitchell’s brain, instead of indicating anything abnormal, gave every indication that the boy in life had been gifted with more than average intelligence.


Every portion of the brain was in perfect condition. The physicians say that while it is possible for a person to be temporarily insane and show no trace in the brain, they insist that where there is chronic insanity, no matter on what subject and no matter how great or small the defection may be, there is certain to be signs of it visible in the brain structure.

The fact that Mitchell was discharged on the grounds of temporary insanity and that his brain showed strong developments of the better qualities, will be made use of in the prosecution of Esther Mitchell, the sister.


The bullet which ended George Mitchell’s life did not penetrate the brain. The bullet entered to the rear and about even with the lobe of the left ear. Plowing its way through the skull it lodged in the bone of the right jaw. The carotid artery was severed and death was due to a hemorrhage.

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