Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Theo Durrant

A Gruesome Discovery

The authorities made a perfunctory search of the church grounds Easter Sunday morning, not expecting to find much. After all, this was a church and Lamont had been missing for nearly two weeks. It would be pretty hard to hide a body in a church for that long, especially the two weeks before Easter.

Then someone remembered the belfry. The church tower was largely ornamental as there was no bell there and no one had reason to go up into the cupola. A close examination of the belfry trap door showed that it had recently been opened, and there were signs that whoever had done so had forced the hinges against the rust.

Reopening the door, investigators were met by the smell of death and the buzzing of flies. A policeman hoisted a lantern up into the steeple and peered in.

The bloated, decaying corpse of Blanche Lamont greeted the police. She lay naked and dead, her "face was fearfully distorted, the mouth being open, exposing the pearly teeth and attesting the terrible death the poor girl had died," Schechter quotes a paper as reporting.

Sketch: Discovery of Blanche's body
Sketch: Discovery of
Blanche's body

Word of the horrific discovery spread fast and soon a crowd had gathered outside the church.

"Thousands crowded around the church, while the streets in front of the newspaper offices were packed with masses of humanity, all struggling to get a view of the bulletin boards," Schechter wrote.

Immediately, the search began for Theo Durrant, the suspect the newspapers and the angry throng decided had committed the murder.

"Telegraphs were dispatched to every sheriff's office in the vicinity of Mount Diablo," Schechter writes.

By the end of the day a detective from the San Francisco police department had reached the Signal Corps camp and apprehended Theo Durrant.

Schechter reports that the gruesome discovery provoked rage on the part of the people of San Francisco. An angry throng was down at Fisherman's Wharf to meet the ferry carrying Det. Anthoney and his suspect, Durrant.

"Only the presence of a large police contingent prevented a lynching," he writes.

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