Old Opera House Mystery (The Rest of the Story – Part I)
By – L. K. McGill Wagner, OkieLegacy
The last we left you hanging in suspense when Justice of the Peace Nelson L. Miller found Mabel Oakes body in the Old Opera House around 3:00 p.m., November 9, 1910, in Alva, Oklahoma. Sheriff Martin and Justice Lawhon were gathering people off the street for a late afternoon coroner’s inquest on that same day for an inquiry into the death of our young, 23 year old, single woman, whom was allegedly strangled in the dusty, back room of the Old Opera House. This was to be known as the blackest day in history for this western Oklahoma community.
Later that afternoon, George Oakes filed a Warrant dated 9 November 1910, executed on the 11 November and an Information filing dated 10 November 1910, both of which were signed under oath by George Oakes showing reasonable grounds for the authorities to investigate the mysterious death of his daughter, stating that Justice Nelson Miller, allegedly “willfully, purposely, without authority of law, feloniously, with malice aforethought, and with the premeditated design to effect the death of another human being (Mabel Oakes) by means of a scarf wound around her neck, strangled to death.”
This quote from Howard K. Berry’s book, The Life of Moman Pruiett - He Made It Safe to Murder , page 346-352, will give you an insight of how politically aligned some of the authorities were and states, “The scene was so crudely laid that it failed to fool anyone but the prosecuting authorities who were politically allied with the prominent Miller, and who wanted to be deceived.”
It makes you wonder what would have come of this case if George Oakes had not filed a warrant, information into the mysterious death of his daughter. Mr. Oakes also hired an out of town attorney as leading prosecutor, J. N. Tincher, Medicine Lodge, Kansas to assist the county attorney, Claud McCrory. The “Law Enforcement League” hired and engaged Moman Pruiett as special prosecutor, to assist in the prosecution of Miller. Was Claud McCrory one of those authorities “politically allied” with Miller?