Sarah Mitchell had it made. The lazy, unemployed, n’er-do-well lived with her sister, Stevie Allman, at 50th Avenue in Oakland, CA. Allman was good people. She allowed her sister to live rent-free with her for 20 years. In return, all she wanted was for Mitchell to purchase her own groceries and do her fair share of the household chores. Nice. Everyone should have a sister like Allman. Mitchell however, didn’t get it. Not only wasn’t she grateful for her sister’s generosity, she was a thief who happily stole checks from a number of her 10 siblings, including a sister named Leotta Belleville, and an inheritance check belonging to Allman. Finally, Allman reached a point where she could no longer tolerate her sister’s lies and thefts. She decided to end Mitchell’s free-loading and told her to move out. Sadly, Allman had just sounded her own death knell. Mitchell was about to lose her gravy train. That simply wouldn’t do.
One fine evening, Mitchell bludgeoned Allman while she slept. Afterwards, the ingrate dismembered her sister’s body and stuffed her into a freezer. How’s that for gratitude? Now there was the pesky body to contend with, not to mention explaining Allman’s disappearance. Of course! Arson was the age-old answer to getting oneself out of a pickle. On the night of July 1, 1997, Mitchell set Allman’s house ablaze. Naturally Mitchell wasn’t inside by the time firefighters arrived. She ran from the burning house in a blaze of glory: the bottom of her dress was on fire. The woman identified herself as Stevie Allman. 52, an unemployed secretary. She suffered first- and second-degree burns to her arms and legs. Ouch. But not as bad as Allman’s fate, I should think. She told authorities the fire was set by drug dealers she had crossed.
Fire officials had no problem believing the arson theory, since it was true. They confirmed that arson had happened to the same residence twice before the fateful night that supposedly claimed Mitchell’s life. Allman was favorably known to the Oakland Police. For over a year she video taped drug dealers doing business on her street and gave the tapes to the police. Allman, aka Mitchell, was hailed a hero. The media coverage tickled the surviving Allman. She issued two statements from her hospital bed stating it was drug dealers who had intended to murder her. For their part police vowed to apprehend those responsible and described the fire as a “cowardly act.” Governor Pete Wilson saw a vote-worthy opportunity when it appeared and he offered a $50,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. I’m surprised Mitchell didn’t come forward with the information so she could receive the $50,000.00. A donation was set up for Allman to help cover her hospital costs and local contractors even offered to rebuild her home. Incredible.
Shortly after her appearance on television police received their first hint that all was not well. They were alerted that there had been two women living in the house and one of them was missing. Perhaps it was one of the drug dealers who provided the tip. Allman’s oldest sister, Belleville, told police that the woman claiming to be Allman was in reality her younger sister, Sarah Mitchell. You go, girl. The sisters had been living in the same house for twenty years and the two were often mistaken for twins as they closely resembled each other. No wonder it was relatively easy for Mitchell to establish the ruse. Still their behaviors were radically different. Allman was a quiet, reclusive soul. Mitchell indulged in drug and alcohol abuse and had been arrested for prostitution and fraud. Check out those pictures of Mitchell. Prostitution? I can only imagine what her clients looked like.
The police searched the home in order to find clues as to Allman’s whereabouts. A trained police dog came upon a charred freezer that had been sealed with duct tape and promptly sat down beside it. Uh-oh. You know what that means (no, the dog didn’t have to take a dump, you). When officers opened the freezer they uncovered the dismembered and decomposed body of Stevie Allman.”I don’t know if bizarre quite describes it,” said Capt. Peter Dunbar of the Oakland Police Department. ”This is the stuff of a Hollywood movie.” Perhaps but certainly the lead role couldn’t have been too glamorous.
Mitchell was arrested after she cashed the check for Allman’s hospital bill donations. No surprise there. When police confronted her about the murder she readily admitted to impersonating her sister. Ho-hum. No biggee. By now Mitchell had assumed Allman’s identity for two years. Mitchell’s siblings confirmed this fact when they told police that Mitchell had been stealing from them for years. She had also posed as Allman once before when Allman lived when she used her sister’s identity to cash a stolen inheritance check. There’s always one in every family isn’t there? Two in mine.
Mitchell was convicted of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of financial gain. She was spared the death penalty when the jury recommended life in prison without the possibility of parole. It would appear the life sentence appealed to Mitchell who simply smiled during the sentencing. I hope killing her sister was worth it.