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Theo Durrant Trial: 1895 - Durrant Tried For Murder, Suggestions For Further Reading

church police april lamont

Defendant: William Henry Theodore Durrant
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Eugene N. Deuprey and John H. Dickinson
Chief Prosecutors: W.H. Anderson, William S. Barnes, W.F. Fitzgerald, and Edgar D. Peixotto
Judge: D.J. Murphy
Place: San Francisco, California
Dates of Trial: April 15-November 1, 1895
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death by hanging

SIGNIFICANCE: "Theo" Durrant was tried, convicted, and executed for murdering two girls despite the fact that the prosecution never proved any motive for the murders.

William Henry Theodore Durrant, known as "Theo," was probably the last person the people of San Francisco, California, would have suspected as being capable of the "Crime of the Century," as San Francisco newspapers described the murders Durrant committed in the Emanuel Baptist Church in 1895.

Durrant was a 21-year-old medical student at the Cooper Medical College. He also belonged to the Emanuel Baptist Church, where he taught Sunday school, assisted with church services, and helped out with various repair jobs in his spare time. He was liked and well respected in the community. In April of 1895, however, he revealed a different side to his personality.

On the afternoon of April 3, Durrant took his fiancee, a high-school girl named Blanche Lamont, into the church. The church was empty, and Durrant grabbed Blanche and proceeded to strangle her to death. He then dragged her corpse to the church belfry where he committed necrophilia with the body. Afterwards he left the church, leaving Lamont's body in the belfry.

That evening, Lamont's parents contacted the police and reported that their daughter was missing. The police went to Durrant's house and questioned him. He feigned ignorance and suggested that Lamont had been kidnapped by one of the white slavery gangs then common in San Francisco. While the police investigated this possibility, Durrant murdered another girl.

On Good Friday, April 12, Durrant lured young Minnie Williams into the Church late at night. He raped and killed her, then dismembered her body in the church library. Durrant made no effort to clean up the bloodstained library or dispose of Williams' body, and once he was finished, he simply left. Some members of the congregation entered the church the next morning and discovered the scene of butchery. They summoned the police, who searched the Church and discovered Lamont's body in the belfry as well. The police promptly arrested Durrant and began the inquests that were the prelude to Durrant's trial on April 15.

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almost 9 years ago

I actually studied this case in 1996, through archieval microfiche at the U of Louisville. It was a very interesting look into jouralism at the time, however, I remember evidence was very scarce.

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about 10 years ago

In two articles from the Historical New York times, it states that Blanche and Theo were engaged. I'd like to know where you received the information that Minnie Williams was also raped.

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about 10 years ago

This report is also incorrect in that Theo was never "tried, convicted, and executed for murdering two girls". He was tried for the murder of Blanche Lamont only. A trial for the murder of Minnie Williams never took place. He never told the police that Blanche"had been kidnapped by one of the white slavery gangs", he said this to the ex-janitor of the Church when he was spotted at the ferry docks on the day of Minnie's disappearance. He said he was looking for Blanche, acting on a tip, when he was actually waiting for Minnie to cross over into the City.

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over 10 years ago

This report is incorrect. Blanche was not Theo's fiancee. Her parents did not live in San Francisco. They lived in Montana when she was killed. Blanche was not raped, however her clothes were removed. Minnie Williams was not dismembered. She was stabbed and raped.