Ella McClendon - The Mystery Woman
In April 1914, Ella McClendon was sentenced in five years in prison after using the mail to defraud people through forged checks. However, she was also under investigation for a scandal involving murder and a $125,000 estate fraud.
The Death of George Nicholas
George M. Nicholas was a wealthy Virginia farmer and miser who had acquired a large sum of cash and property over his lifetime. In 1912, newspapers around the country reported a story of the alleged poisoning murder of the wealthy farmer. Nicholas had been a recluse much of his life. He never married, had no children, and had no written will to leave his wealth to his four brothers.
Following Nicholas' death, suspicions rose when three others became gravely in similar manners. It was determined that George Nicholas had been pensioned through his coffee. But who had poisoned the four individuals and why, was still a mystery.
Roughly two weeks after his death, authorities began receiving packages containing what looked to be the last will and testament of George M. Nicholas. The "will" bequeathed his home, farm, and more than half of his holdings to Ella McClendon. McClendon claimed she had helped him after an accident and was given the will as his caretaker.
At 34 years of age, Ella McClendon was a former postmaster at Sturdivant, Missouri. She had extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the postal system and used that to her advantage to forge her way through multiple scams.
McClendon was eventually arrested by Postal inspectors on October 14, 1913, but for an entirely different crime. She had been found deposing checks made out to "Ed Elders" - a fictitious person. She would then pay checks from the forged account to herself.
Arrest and Punishments
During her arrest, the connection between George Nicholas' death and McClendon came to light. Beyond gaining $125,000 from Nicholas' estate, she had used the same tactics to inherit $900 from John Rowan, another wealthy farmer.
The brothers of Nicholas contested the will, but Ella McClendon pleaded the fifth and eventually won the Virginia Supreme Court case. She was never convicted for the murder or estate fraud against Nicholas. Instead, on April 17, 1914, Ella McClendon was sentenced to five years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary for unrelated forgery and fraud.
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