Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Theo Durrant

Minnie Williams

In preparation for the Easter Sunday service, several of the ladies of Emanuel Baptist gathered in the church on Saturday to decorate the pews with flowers. The work wasn't difficult and it didn't take long for the Ladies' Society to finish.

With a few moments to spare, the group decided to take a bit of refreshment in a room off the church vestibule which was used as a library.

No one was paying much attention when one of the women opened a cupboard door in search of teacups. With a horrible shriek, the woman took a step back and promptly fainted.

The others in the room turned to look. What they saw sent the lot of them screaming into the street.

Their agonies prompted calls to the police who were directed into the library where they found the naked, brutalized body of Minnie Williams.

Minnie Williams, victim
Minnie Williams, victim

Minnie had been crammed into the cupboard, her wrists had been slashed, her breasts stabbed repeatedly and her underclothes had been forced down her throat. Blood had seeped out of the cupboard on to the library floor.

A description by the San Francisco Examiner that Schechter included in his book conveys the brutality of the slaying:

"She had been gagged, and that in a manner indicative of a fiend rather than a man," the paper reported. "A portion of her underclothing had been thrust down her throat with a stick, her tongue being terribly lacerated by the operation."

The cuts on Minnie's arms were so deep that not only had the monster cut her arteries, but the tendons had been severed, as well. The stab wounds to her breasts were made with a dull table-knife,"one of those used in the church at entertainments where refreshments are served," Schechter wrote.

There was some difference of opinion as to whether Minnie had been stripped by the killer as a prelude to sex or to facilitate the fatal stab wounds.

"It appeared that the cold-blooded wretch had deliberately unfastened his victim's dress that the knife might penetrate her flesh," The Examiner reported, while the San Francisco Call hinted that Minnie had been a cooperative partner to intercourse before her death.

Eventually, the coroner ruled that Minnie had been raped after death.

Police had but one suspect — Theo Durrant, and the San Francisco Chronicle led its Easter Sunday edition with a proclamation   that not only had Durrant killed Minnie Williams but that he had probably slaughtered Blanche Lamont as well. The paper goaded the police into searching the church for clues to Blanche's disappearance.

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