In 1958, William Leslie Arnold was only 16 years old when he murdered his parents. He buried them in the backyard after they refused to let him borrow their car to take his girlfriend to see The Undead at a drive-in theater. Arnold went about his life in Omaha, Nebraska, telling everyone that his parents had gone on vacation. He was arrested two weeks later, confessed to the killings, and led investigators to his parents’ makeshift gravesite.
He was sentenced to two life sentences in the Nebraska state penitentiary the following year. However, in 1967, Arnold and another prisoner, James Harding, escaped from the prison using masks to fool guards who conducted daily head counts.
In 1967, Arnold and James Harding were able to communicate with someone outside the prison by placing newspaper advertisements in the Lincoln Journal Star. After serving only eight years of a life sentence, the two inmates were helped by a former parolee who provided them with the necessary equipment to escape. The parolee obtained masks, which Arnold and Harding used to fool the prison guards during daily head counts.
Arnold and James Harding made it to Omaha and then took a bus to Chicago after escaping from prison with the help of a former parolee. They split up in Chicago, however, and Arnold’s whereabouts became unknown. Although Harding was apprehended within a year, Arnold appeared to have vanished without a trace.
Arnold went on the run for half a century after the escape was deemed one of the “cleanest” in the warden’s experience.
Arnold lived as John Vincent Damon, a well-liked family man who married twice and had two children. He visited Chicago, Miami, California, New Zealand, and finally settled in Australia as a salesman. The FBI worked on Arnold’s case until the 1990s, when it was turned over to the Nebraska Department of Corrections, which in turn turned it over to the US Marshals Service.
The case was assigned to Matthew Westover, a deputy marshal in Nebraska, in 2020. Westover read “The Mystery of Leslie Arnold,” a 2017 Omaha World-Herald article by reporter Henry Cordes.
Arnold was portrayed sympathetically in the article as a good student who had a difficult relationship with his parents and shot them after a disagreement with his mother over his girlfriend. The men escaped through the prison music room window and over a 12-foot fence with a T-shirt slung over it to protect them from razor wire.
The DNA Test
From 2004 to 2013, Westover worked on the case for nine years before getting a break when he received an alert of a match and an email from a man in Chicago who said he was looking for his biological father. Westover had uploaded Leslie Arnold’s DNA and was looking for any possible matches.
The man had requested anonymity, but he told the investigators that he knew his father as John Damon and that Damon had told him he was an orphan.
The man inquired as to who his father was and why he had been imprisoned. Arnold’s son told CNN that he is relieved to know the truth about his father.
Arnold and his wife moved to various cities, including Cincinnati, Miami, and Los Angeles, before divorcing in 1978, according to investigators. Arnold, according to records, moved to New Zealand in the 1990s and then to Australia later that decade, as confirmed by Westover. Britton stated that his family, including Arnold’s second wife, were unaware of his past.