New DNA evidence has revealed the dark past of a Nebraska teenager who killed his parents and then escaped prison in the 1950s. He lived his life as a successful Australian businessman, husband, and father. His family learned about his dark past only after his death.
Leslie Arnold, , who was 16 at the time, killed his parents in a dispute about the use of their family car. He then buried the bodies of both of them in the backyard their Omaha home. He continued to attend school as if nothing had happened for over a week.
But suspicions grew and he confessed the brutal double murder, before being sentenced for life.
He escaped from the Nebraska State Penitentiary less than a decade after his arrest. He slipped into a new identity as John Damon, while law enforcement officials were on his tail.
In 2022, ten years after his death his son submitted‘s DNA to a public database. The shocking truth was revealed.
Arnold’s son asked Fox News Digital not to reveal his name. “It was shocking,” he said. It still doesn’t seem real.
Arnold became angry when Opal Arnold, Arnold’s mom, refused to allow him to take Crystal to a drive-in film in the new Mercury sedan.
Matthew Westover, a deputy U.S. Marshal who solved the case 50 years after Arnold’s prison escape, said that tensions were simmering because of his relationship with a girl his mother had called “White Trash.”
Arnold took a rifle out of his parents’ bedroom on September 27, 1958 and confronted her. “What’s your plan, are you going shoot me?” She laughed.
Six shots were fired by the teenager.
Bill Arnold came in minutes later with bags of groceries under his arm. Arnold shot him to death after they struggled.
Westover claimed that the mother was harsh with Arnold and often favored James, her 13-year-old son. She was also reported to have suffered from mental illness.
Arnold and his girlfriend went to the cinema after the bloodbath. They watched “The Undead,” a horror film.
He then left his brother with a neighbor, saying that his parents were on an urgent trip to his grandparents’ house.
Arnold buried the bodies of his parents in a shallow grave beneath a lilac shrub in the middle of the night. The horror was revealed when his grandparents arrived looking for Opal, Bill and him. He confessed their murders.
Arnold was a gifted saxophonist, and a good student in his Midwestern rural town. This made the horrific killings even more shocking to the locals.
Arnold sent an apology letter to his neighbor before pleading guilty. “[My parents] were wonderful people. “I am sorry that I only learned this too late,” he wrote to the Omaha World-Herald. “I’ll never understand how I could have done so much wrong.”
Arnold and James Harding, who had served only eight years in prison, devised a plan to escape with the aid of a recently paroled inmate who threw saw blades and masks onto the prison yard.
They used chewing-gum to secure the window bars in the music room of the prison until they fled. The rubber masks were attached to pillows in order to fool the prison guards.
The pair scaled the 12-foot barbed-wire fence on July 14, 1967.
Geoff Britton is a retired criminal investigative officer with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services who spent many years investigating this case.
Arnold settled down in Chicago less than six month after his escape. He married a divorcee who had four daughters. The fledgling obtained fake identity papers and assumed the name John Damon. He then became a salesman.
Westover stated that the family moved to Cincinnati, then Miami, to avoid detection.
The marriage was soon over and Arnold severed all ties to his stepdaughters following his divorce.
He met his second spouse in Los Angeles. She was a student on exchange, and they had a daughter and son.
In 1992, the family settled in New Zealand before moving to Australia in 1997 . Arnold was a decent earner and spent no money on his children’s education.
He said that he was “almost overly supportive”. “He was passionate about ensuring that my sister and myself had the best possible experiences and opportunities.”
Arnold was an accomplished saxophonist but his son had never heard him perform. He maintained a small group of friends and told his family that he was a Chicago orphan. “Everything that he said was only fragments of truth,” his son recalled.
Arnold died on August 6, 2010 after fighting a clotting disorder for several years.
Britton pursued Arnold’s matter obsessively from 2004 until 2013, when he left the department.
Britton was diligent, but his investigation produced few results. Britton’s target escaped five years before Britton. “[Arnold] had a substantial head start,” Britton quipped.
He collected DNA from Arnold’s older brother in 2007 and submitted it to several criminal databases. However, there were no matches to any relatives. Public databases such as 23andMe, Ancestry.com and Ancestry.com were not popular yet.
In 2020, the case was brought to Westover’s attention. He said, “It was like a joke.” “Here is a Cold Case which will never be solved. But we, the U.S. marshals don’t quit.”
Westover decided, with James Arnold’s permission, to upload a DNA sample to a public data base in late 2020. There were no matches.
This changed in August 2022, when Westover received a message stating that James’ DNA was matched with a nephew. It was Leslie Arnold’s son.
“I couldn’t have believed it.” Westover remembered that “[the son] told me his dad was an Orphan from Chicago.” Westover told the truth after they exchanged messages. He told Arnold’s child he was an U.S. Marshal looking for Arnold, who was on the run.
“I said ‘Well, in fact, he was an orphan. Your father didn’t lie about it. Westover told him. It was tough at that time. “He was just blown over.”
Westover traveled from Australia to Australia in order to get a DNA sample of Arnold and also took a photo of his grave.
Britton stated that this case changed his view on rehabilitation. He said, “I’m not minimising his crime but my view of him now has changed.”
Dealing with the Truth
Arnold’s first-born son, who gave birth to his child four months earlier, has now had nearly a full year to digest the shocking revelations about his dad.
He said, “I’m not going to sugarcoat the story.” “He was a wonderful father and I feel very fortunate to have had the life that I do, but I also know how other people were affected by his actions.”
After losing both parents suddenly, his uncle was raised by family members he barely knew.
James Arnold, who told the Omaha-Herald that he thought about his situation “almost every day” in 2017, said he had spent years crippled with shame, guilt and fear.
Arnold’s son believes that his father who he describes as intelligent and driven felt remorse and spent his entire life looking back.
Arnold’s son discovered his bible after his death. He said that the highlighted passages were about forgiveness, sin and guilt. “I think he carried it with him for the rest his life.”