February 8, 1933
The body of Lucinda Mills is found after she is killed during a religious ceremony
Police arrived at the home of Tommie Boyd, either after being alerted by concerned neighbors or upon hearing a commotion of singing, dancing, and shouting coming from the house. Inside was a congregation, referred to as “the Cult of The Unknown Tongues,” composed of several members of the Mills family and their spouses. Witnesses also testified later in court to seeing John Mills kneeling over the body of his mother, Lucinda Mills (whose age is recorded as either 67 or 72 — I could not find her death certificate to verify her age), while waving a Bible.
Eight people were arrested in connection with Lucinda’s murder — her sons John and Fred Mills, her adult grandson Ballard Mills, her sons-in-law Blaine McGinnis and Tommie Boyd, her daughters Mollie McGinnis and Ora Moore, and her daughter-in-law Alma Mills. The charges against Alma were later dropped, and Boyd was held as a material witness.
According to the family, they first began their ritual by beating each other with Bibles to “drive out the devils,” in an attempt to rescue Leonard, one of Lucinda’s sons, from an asylum. They next moved on to “smoting” members of the congregation by repeatedly strangling a chosen member.
Trixie Mills, Lucinda’s daughter-in-law and Fred’s wife, was chosen first. She recalled to the court how she was “laid on a altar” before John choked her. “When he laid his hands on me and it hurt I jerked loose and got up,” Trixie testified. Later, she complained to the group that “my neck’s sore, they been a-choking me.” Lucinda was chosen next, and John similarly strangled his mother repeatedly as she lay on an improvised altar. During this process, Lucinda was killed. Heavy chains were then placed around her neck and plans were started to cremate her body in a burnt offering, though these plans were interrupted by the police.
The family all told the court Lucinda’s death had not been intentional. Ora testified she didn’t believe her mother would have been killed during the ritual, a sentiment echoed by her sister Mollie who stated, “I had no thought any harm was going to be done to my mother.” And Blaine claimed he had wanted to stop the killing but stood back and did not intervene.
The judge presiding noted several of the defendants had been under a “hypnotic spell” involving the “blind leading the blind, and they went into the ditch.”
Eventually, the charges were dropped against all but three of Lucinda’s family. Blaine McGinnis and Ballard Mills were each convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years in prison while John Mills was sentenced to life. By November of 1933, Blaine was granted a pardon after it was ruled he “never intentionally did anything toward the killing of Lucinda Mills.” The governor also stated he believed Blaine “was worked up in some kind of religious frenzy and did not know what was going on at the time of the killing of his mother-in-law.”
Beck, Virgil. “Justice And The Cult Killings.” The Atlanta Constitution. September 23, 1934
“Blaine M’Ginnis Is Given Pardon.” The Lexington Leader. November 3, 1933
“Three Sentenced for Kentucky Cult Murder.” The Gresham Gazette. May 5, 1933
“Cult Slaying Case Goes To Jury.” The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky]. April 12, 1933
“Cult Trial Is Nearing Close.” The Newark Advocate. April 11, 1933
“Insanity Held Slaying Cause.” The Courier-Journal. April 7, 1933
“Accused in Cult Slaying.” Brooklyn Times Union. February 13, 1933
“Figures in Cult Murder.” Daily News [New York, New York]. February 11, 1933
“Ages Woman Offered Up To Gods Of Hills.” Blackwell Morning Tribune. February 9, 1933
“Mountain Cult Held In Slaying.” Lancaster New Era. February 9, 1933