Aimee Semple McPherson was kidnapped from Ocean Park Beach near Santa Monica on May 18, 1926 by two men and a woman, who hustled her into a car, held a cloth soaked with chloroform against her face, kept her in an adobe shack in the Mexican desert for five weeks, until she escaped, and that’s her story and she’s sticking to it.
But the press smelled a sensational story when witnesses from Santa Monica to Monterey reported seeing the evangelist during that same time—the woman passenger in a man’s car, the woman in his hotel room in Carmel.
Crimes against the faith-healer in the grand jury indictment added up to a maximum prison time of forty-two years for a defendant once called a miracle worker for the hundreds she saved during public faith-healings.
Dogged by the press, Aimee’s married lover, her radio engineer, went into hiding.
Every single witness to the sightings of Aimee with her lover changed their stories more than once, and the press said money changed hands, and the D.A. went after her mother too, charging her with bribery and conspiracy.
Fabrication of a kidnapping is a serious felony, the D.A. said.
Going Hollywood with her fancy clothes and new styled and colored hair did not help her standing with the press.
“How was it possible for you to walk thirteen hours across the desert and reach Agua Prieta in Mexico without getting sand in your shoes?” one reporter asked.
“I know it looks bad,” Aimee told her followers, “but I will fight this the same way I fought to build Angelus Temple—I’ll take my case to the airwaves.”
“Just who were these kidnappers?” the prosecutor asked.
Keep the faith, Aimee, her followers wrote in the thousands of letters pouring into Angelus Temple.
Long story short, the prosecutor confronted a well-coiffed and made-up Aimee: “You cooked up the fake kidnapping story to hide your sin of adultery.”
Many many witnesses kept changing their stories.
Newspapers released a continuous stream of sensational headlines.
Only the faithful knew the truth of their Aimee.
Public adulation of the most famous faith-healer in America grew through her appeals on her own radio show.
“Quite a story about your escape,” the prosecutor said. “And if you would, please tell the jury how it was that you were able to escape from an adobe shack in the desert if you were tied and bound and had three kidnappers holding you for ransom?”
“Really, quite a story.”
“So let’s see if I have this straight,” the prosecutor continues, “you got out of the ocean after your swim and somehow went inside the alleged kidnappers’ car because this man and woman appealed to you to pray for their sick son, is that about right?”
To which she replied, “I am a woman of the Lord and if my powers as a healer can save a child, I will do it without question.”
“Understand, Ma’am that if convicted you could spend the rest of your life, not in the embrace of the Lord, but in a state penitentiary?”
“Very likely, sir, you have mounted these false charges against me for your own political gain,” Aimee said while looking at the one woman on the jury who always nodded when she spoke.
Witnesses changed their stories so many times that the defense never had to call their secret weapon, Witness X, to the stand.
X’s real name was Elizabeth Tovey and she was prepared to testify that she was in the hotel room in Carmel with Aimee’s married radio engineer.
“You knew, my Lord, that the truth would set me free,” Aimee said at the press conference after the verdict, arms raised to the Lord while gazing at the clear blue Los Angeles sky.
“Zechariah!” she preached to the throng, pointing to the prosecutor, “Zechariah was struck dumb for not believing.”