The mystery of the fugitive who killed his parents was solved after six decades

The mystery of the fugitive who killed his parents was solved after six decades

He buried their bodies in the backyard of their house in Omaha, Nebraska, and continued to live normally for two weeks, under pressure from the authorities. he confessed to the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The continuation of Arnold’s story can be like that of anyone’s life – decades of imprisonment and a death that some will write about and few will mourn.

But to escape of Arnold from prison 1967 it became the beginning of a completely different story that ended in Australia, with the death of a man by a different name, a loving father whose family had no idea of ​​his secret life.


Black and white photographs from the 1960s show a thin boy being escorted by police officers, directing them to the garden of his house. where he buried his parents.

William Leslie Arnold tells police he buried his parents (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD)

O Jeff Brittonhead of the California Office of Law Enforcement Assistance, who first dealt with Arnold at the time 2004 – 2013, while working at the Nebraska Correctional Service, he recalls the details of a case that haunted him for years:

“He killed his parents, took the car, went with his girlfriend to watch the movie ‘The Undead’ at a drive-in, came back, buried them in the backyard and told everyone his parents drove away.”

When Britton decided to take the case, Arnold was already there you have been running for over thirty years. In 1967, having served only eight years of his sentence, he escaped from prison along with a fellow prisoner James Harding.

They were assisted by an external assistant, who also they communicated through advertisements in the Lincoln Journal Star.

Britton managed to track him down. It was one former prisoner who gave them everything they needed to carry out their plan.

“He threw them over fence saws to cut window frames and masks to put on their beds and fool the guards who were counting the cells at night. Like in the movie “Escape from Alcatraz” by Clint Eastwood.

Newspapers of the time record their daring escape from one wire mesh with a length of 3.7 meters in a reduced security area of ​​the prison.

The earth and space exploration spread across four states amassing a large police force, reported the Lincoln Journal Star on July 15, 1967. Three months later, one of the guards told the Omaha World-Herald that he was. the cleanest escape which he saw in his work.

News at the time of Arnold and Harding’s escape (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD)

Authorities discovered that the escapees had made it to Omaha and then boarded a then go to Chicago, where they broke up. This is what he admitted Harding, who was arrested before a year had passed since his escape.

Arnold though he had disappeared. Some rumors that he fled to South America were never confirmed.

Britton was very confused by the case he continued to examine her and after moving from Nebraska to California. At one point he met the police Matthew Westoverwho “inherited” Arnold’s folder the 2020.

“My partner retired and, as usual, he left me the case file as a joke, ‘you’ll never find this guy,'” says Westover.

Westover read reporting from the Omaha World-Herald and journalist Henry J. Cordes, who covered the case in a series of publications under the title “Leslie Arnold’s Secret”.

Through many interviews, Cordes had discovered some interesting facts, such as that of Arnold he was a good student at school, who had a difficult relationship with his parents. The shots, according to Cordes, came after a fierce struggle between Arnold and his mother, who He did not accept his lover.

Arnold was in prison model prisoner and was very involved in music, Cordes wrote. And the more Westover read, the more he believed it it was his destiny to “unlock” Arnold.

He runs on his feet

By the time the case reached Westover’s office, the world had changed. Crimes were no longer solved by reading old archives and newspapers. In 2020 DNA test now it was all too common, and Westover got into his car and drove for five hours to find it James Arnold, younger brother and William Leslie Arnold.

James Arnold was not home at the time of the murder, but more than 60 years later he had no objection to providing a DNA sample to Westover. That uploaded to the website get the original, but there was no result.

Westover continued to investigate the case by diving into the past FBI files and in Britton’s notes.

Until two years later, the DNA sample he had uploaded, found a match. A new sample that matches in many places, may belong to a close relative. In total, Westover received one email from Australiaand the person who loaded the sample.

“Hello, I am trying to find more information about my father. He was an orphan from Chicago.”

Westover informed Britton and was delighted: “this is our man. It can’t be him.”

The man behind email

Who sent the email was Arnold’s childwhose identity Westover and Britton want to protect.

A son he did not know that he was communicating with a police officeras Westover had used the name of James Arnold to upload the model.

He wanted to know more about his father whom he knew John Damonand who was he died in 2010.

Matthew Westover badge and wanted poster at the grave of William Leslie Arnold / John Vincent Damon (COURTESY MATTHEW WESTOVER)

Westover was very careful in his communication with his son, as he believed that a person who managed to deceive the police for 50 years could also arrange his death.

He was finally convinced that Arnold was dead by the time the local authorities arrived they verified the death certificate. And then Westover decided he had to reveal more to his son Arnold dark secret of his father. They planned to talk via video.

“I told him who I was and he asked me what his father had done to end up in prison. “He was really an orphan, he didn’t lie to you,” I answered. “But the reason he became an orphan is because he killed his parents.”

William Leslie Arnold – later known as John Vincent Damon – he died at the age of 69 and he was buried in Australia, thousands of kilometers away from the Nebraska State Penitentiary where he could have breathed his last.

Now that they knew his name, the US authorities could join the puzzle pieces of his life since he went missing in Chicago.

According to Westover, Arnold he changed his name a few months after escaping in 1967. He got a job in a restaurant, where he met his first wife and had four children with her.

They then moved to Cincinnati, Miami and Los Angeles before divorcing in 1978. Records show that Arnold he originally moved to New Zealand in the 1990s and a few years later in Australia. His second wife and the rest of his family they knew nothing about his past.

Westover he declares relief that Arnold is dead – after meeting his family, he would not want to be arrested and extradited to the United States. And Britton agrees with him.

Geoff Britton (left) and Matthew Westover (COURTESY GEOFF BRITTON / MATTHEW WESTOVER)

About his son Arnold, though he refused to be interviewed to CNNi, he sent the following statement:

“In DNA tests, there is no sign that warns you that you may not like what you are learning. But I don’t regret doing it and I’m glad I learned the truth about my father.”

“Although I was shocked to learn that his life started with one heinous crimehis legacy is like that much more from him,” he continued.

“I want him to be remembered for a reason he was a good father and he took care of us, passed on his love of music and made me always strive to be the best person I can be.”

With information from: A loving father was exposed as a convicted murderer who led a life on the run and Hilary Whiteman, CNN