If you went to a prosecutor today and informed them that you wanted to open a trial to convict a man of murder due to a testimony from a ghost. Well… you may end up in some therapy sessions or laughed out of the building. Sure, the supernatural is a wild and mysterious place but at the end of the day in the court of law, it becomes something that is very hard to present as substantial.
However, in 1879 this actually became a reality and some would say rightly so. When Elva Zona Heaster was found dead in her home the doctor wrote it off as complications from a pregnancy, as he had been seeing her for fatigue-related problems. Her mother, Anna, though was not convinced and adamantly put out that her daughter’s husband Edward had killed her.
A theory that seemed valid when you take in to account that Edward did not let anyone near the body of Elva. In fact, for the funeral, he covered her neck with a scarf, which he claimed was her favorite. And when anyone tried to examine the neck closely he became angry and agitated. This was enough evidence for Anna and she began to pray. She prayed fervently every night for a month, asking to speak to her daughter.
Finally, her prayers were answered and her daughter came to her as a ghost, explaining that Edward had killed her when he found out there was no meat for dinner. Seems like a bit of an overreaction, no? Anna went to a prosecutor, John Alfred Preston and explained her daughter appearing. Preston was not very convinced by her evidence but decided to speak to the doctor. This is where the truth started to come out, the doctor explained Edward had not let him examine her neck!
Preston quickly opened the case and found out during the autopsy that Elva’s neck had been broken. During the trial, he avoided bringing up the testimony of a ghost believing the jury would think Anna was mad. The defense attorney, however, had the same idea, but when he brought it up Anna described her supernatural experience with her daughter in so much detail that the jury was convinced. As a result, Edward was convicted of murdering Elva and sentenced to a life in prison.