*Warning – The information you are about to read may include discussions of true crimes, graphic details, and crime scenes, this may be too graphic for some people, please use discretion when reading*
This case takes place in 1922, in Somerset New Jersey. It has all the elements for a made for TV movie on Lifetime, a priest, a member of the choir, both married to other people, and murder. But who did it? Sadly it’s never been solved, but perhaps you will have your own opinions after reading about it.
Eleanor Mills, was married to James Mills. He worked as a sexton at the St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church. Eleanor was a member of the choir and a housewife, raising their two children Charlotte and Daniel.
Edward Hall, was married to Frances Noel Stevens. He was a priest at the St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church. Frances is distantly related to wealthy families of the era, including the Johnsons (of Johnson & Johnson). She did not work outside the home.
On September 16, 1922 the bodies of a man and woman were discovered in a field near a farm, under a crabapple tree. Both were on their backs, both were shot in the head with a .32 caliber pistol. The man had one bullet wound, the woman had three. The bodies were discovered within 24 hours of their demise.
The man was identified as Reverend Edward Hall. His calling card was at his feet and torn love letters were found between the two bodies. The woman was identified as Mrs. Eleanor Mills.
Now in a case like this, it is assumed that the spouses had something to do with it. Even though it was reputed to be well known that Reverend Hall and Mrs. Mills were having an affair, both Frances Hall and James Mills would deny any knowledge of the affair.
Eleanor had left her home around 7.30pm, her family was aware she had left. Around that same time, Edward had enjoyed a meal with his wife and brother in law and then left stating he had to meet Mrs. Mills at the church, regarding a loan he had given her. When Edward failed to return home, Frances and her brother went looking for him at both the church and the Mills home which were both dark. They went home and reported Edward missing in the morning.
During the police investigation, there was little evidence to go off of, until Jane Gibson, a local pig farmer, dubbed “Pig Woman” by the media, shared some information with police.
Jane had informed police that on the night in question, she was out on her mule, thinking that someone was out to steal her corn. When she approached the figures in the distance she saw four people under the crabapple tree. No sooner had Jane got closer when she heard a gunshot, one person fell to the ground, and a woman could be heard saying “Don’t! Don’t!” Further gunshots could then be heard before a second person fell. Jane was stunned and afraid she fled before she was seen, but she heard one final scream from a woman, “Henry!”
Police didn’t seem to fully believe Jane Gibson, as her story altered each time she relayed it. She either added extra details, or altered other details to fit what she may have learned from local newspapers.
The police and prosecutors attempted to get an indictment against Mrs. Frances Hall, and her two brothers, Henry and William Stevens. Sadly they weren’t able to get an indictment.
4 Years Later
The Hall Mills Murders had mostly been forgotten, until July of 1926, when it was again back in the spotlight. July 3, 1926, Arthur Riehl filed for divorce from his wife of ten months, in his petition he stated that she had taken $5000 from her employer for her assistance and silence in the murders. Mrs. Riehl’s employer was Mrs. Frances Hall.
Mrs. Riehl, was a former maid of the Hall’s, and confessed that Edward had confided his plans to elope with Eleanor. Mrs. Riehl shared this information with Frances Hall, she informed her of the location the pair was to meet and Frances had their chauffeur drive her and her brother William to the location. This claim was denied by both Mrs. Riehl and the chauffeur.
Three weeks later, Frances Hall and her brothers William and Henry Stevens were all arrested for the murders of Edward Hall and Eleanor Mills. After the month long trial, Frances Hall, and her two brothers, were all acquitted. Some believe that Frances got away with murder, others feel that the real culprit was never found or brought to justice. What do you think happened?
Please be ever alert, make good choices, be safe