The Police deal with thieves, addicts, and fraudsters on an almost daily basis. So after a few years on the job, police officers get pretty good at knowing when someone is telling them the truth and when someone is telling them a lie.
In 1997, police were called to the scene after a local middle-aged woman’s house was set on fire by local drug dealers. The police vowed to get justice for the victim and lone survivor, but then they started receiving unusual tips that made them question everything…
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The House Fire
On the night of July 1, 1997, an Oakland, California fire department received a call about a small white bungalow in the 2100 block of 50th Avenue. First responders rushed to the scene, but when they arrived, they found neighbors trying to help a 52-year-old woman with burns on her arms legs and face.
The Lone Survivor
Neighbors had poured water on the woman, who was rushed to the hospital with first- and second-degree burns on 15 percent of her body. Firefighters fought to put the fire out, but the woman, who identified herself as Stevie Allman, was the only survivor…
The Investigation Begins
Stevie’s 2 dogs, a pit bull and a Chihuahua named Oda and Caesar, had died in the fire. Stevie was devastated by what had happened but was kept occupied in the hospital. After she was treated for her burns at the hospital, the police and fire department got to work figuring out how the fire started.
An Anti-Drug Crusader
Stevie was an unemployed secretary who had spent more than a year secretly videotaping drug dealers selling drugs on her street and sending the footage and information to the police. Stevie hoped that her efforts would help reduce the amount of crime and drug use in the area…
When asked by police what happened that night, Stevie claimed drug dealers in the area had found out that she had been taping them selling drugs through her living room window and intentionally firebombed her house to kill her and send a message to the rest of the community.
A Public Statement
“I have no doubt they intended to murder me and burn the house down on top of me,” Stevie said in a statement. “Their warped minds thought the act would clear the way to do their dirty dealing . . . and at the same time scare everyone else along 50th Avenue and beyond into a submissive terrified slave state…”
The Cause Of The Fire
To some, Stevie’s claims sounded a little far-fetched, but the fire department investigated the home and their reports found that the fire had been arson like Stevie said. And for local police officers, the results of the investigation weren’t very surprising.
Police had been called to Stevie’s home 2 times before when other firebombs had been set off outside her home. With the results of the investigation supporting Stevie’s accusations, police had no reason to believe she hadn’t been telling them the truth…
When news of the third attack was made public, Stevie was seen as a brave hero and the community called her an anti-drug crusader. After hearing her story, Stevie was sent over 100 cards while she was in the hospital, and was sent 92 checks worth a total of $4,700, and given $500 from the Oakland Police Association to help her replace her dogs. Local contractors even offered to rebuild Stevie’s home.
Like the community, the police were outraged by what had happened to Stevie and her home. They vowed to find those responsible and get justice for Stevie. “We intend to jump on this with both feet and both fists,” police Chief Joseph Samuels Jr. said…
Pete Wilson, the governor at the time, was so determined to get justice for such an upstanding citizen, that he offered a $50,000 reward for any information that lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the firebombing of Stevie’s home.
An Unusual Response
Normally, when large rewards are offered, the police get inundated with tips. Yet, when the governor offered the $50,000 reward, hardly anyone came forward with new information for the police to add to their investigation. But that wasn’t the only thing that was strange…
After seeing the reports and Stevie’s statement on the news, one of Stevie’s 10 brothers and sisters filed a missing person report for her with their local police in Scotts Valley, California on July 7. Around that time, investigators also received an unexpected tip.
According to multiple neighbors and Stevie’s older sister, Leotta Belleville, Stevie and her younger sister, Sarah Mitchell, had been living in the house together. And according to the tips, the police had been talking to the wrong sister the entire time…
At first, police thought there had just been a mix up with Stevie and Sarah’s names. However, when they reviewed all their information, they realized they didn’t know for sure who the woman was that had been released from the hospital on July 9.
A New Investigation
During the new investigation, police discovered that Stevie Allman and her younger sister, Sarah Mitchell, had been living together in the same house for the past 20 years. Investigators got a warrant to thoroughly search the home again, but what they found this time left them speechless…
While searching the home with a dog to find clues about where Stevie was, police found a burned freezer near the area where the fire began. Once officers cut away the duct tape that had sealed the freezer shut, they discovered the dismembered and decomposing body of Stevie Allman.
A few hours later, Mitchell was arrested. When police took her fingerprints, they matched a set on file that had been taken when Mitchell was arrested in 1971 for prostitution. Mitchell had finally been caught and confessed to impersonating her older sister…
Mitchell’s family explained she had been stealing from Stevie for 2 years and knew that she had pretended to be Stevie in the past to cash checks that belonged to Stevie and gain access to her accounts. Police suspect Stevie was about to cut Mitchell off, so Mitchell bludgeoned Stevie while she was asleep and stuffed her dismembered body into the freezer.
At the end of the trial, the jury, which was made up of 7 women and 5 men, convicted Mitchell of first- degree murder with the special circumstance of financial gain. The jury agreed with the family’s wishes to not sentence Mitchell to the death sentence, and instead suggested she be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.