The “Sack Murder” of San Fernando

December 26, 1927
San Fernando, CA

boundwomanThe body of an unidentified woman was discovered off of Mulholland St. (now called Foothill Blvd.) in San Fernando today.

Her hands were bound across her chest with twine.  Her knees were bent, and her feet tied to her back with a length of cord.  Her body had been wrapped in canvas.  She had been struck in the forehead with a blunt instrument; however, a preliminary autopsy revealed that the blow was not hard enough to have killed her.  Most likely, she was knocked unconscious by her assailant, tied up, then left to die of exposure.

The dead woman was approximately 45 years of age, and was found wearing a black crepe dress, "cheap cotton underwear," and hose.  Her shoes had been removed.  She had false upper teeth and a scar.  She had been drinking the night she was beaten and left to die.  She had been dead for approximately 24 hours before she was found, and lay in the San Fernando morgue for four days until she was identified as Amelia Appleby of 229 N. Hobart Blvd.

The fourth wife of a wealthy Chicago inventor, Appleby had inherited a $1 million estate upon his death, taken the money, and moved to California.  She was not well-liked by her late husband’s family, nor by her Los Angeles neighbors, who described her as "eccentric" and "a troublemaker."  However, she did have one friend who cared enough to tell police what she knew.  Prior to her death, Appleby was known to keep company with a "doctor" named Charles McMillan, 57.  Appleby had confided to her friend that she feared McMillan would kill her if she refused to marry him.

McMillan was rounded up at his 531 S. Western Ave. apartment, where police found him poring over a stack of Appleby’s personal papers.  They later found more of her personal items, including her diamond jewelry, in McMillan’s possession.  Police investigators later found two versions of Appleby’s will, one which left her estate to McMillan, and another which left it to a long-lost daughter, although her relatives claimed that she’d never had a child.  Neither will was signed, and both were strongly suspected to be forgeries.

The evidence against McMillan was circumstantial, but strong.  The stolen papers and jewels, a blood-stained jacket, the forged will, and the fact that he was the last person to be seen with Appleby were enough to convince jurors of his guilt.  McMillan was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on February 24, 1928.