Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Drugs, Sex, and Murder in 1920s Tinseltown

The Scene

Crime scene arrow points to body
Crime scene arrow points to body

The murder of William Desmond Taylor is thought to have occurred shortly after he had said goodbye to his friend, the movie comedian Mabel Normand, at approximately 7:45 p.m. Almost 12 hours later, Taylor's body was discovered by his butler, Samuel Peavey. 

Within minutes, a number of people were at Taylor's apartment. None of them were police. The frantic Peavey let in William Eyre, a studio executive, Taylor's creative colleague, Julia Crawford Ivers, and her cameraman son, James Van Trees. Also present was a doctor, or so he identified himself, who declared that the cause of death was a heart attack. If any one of them had turned the body over, they would have seen a very distinct bullet wound. The doctor disappeared. The studio people began removing material from the apartment, incriminating letters, as well as a pink, monogrammed nightie. Only then did the police appear. If there were clues to be found, the murder site had been so compromised that it would be impossible to find any.

Neighbors gave their accounts. A neighbor across the way from Taylor's apartment, Faith Maclean, testified that she had heard a shot around 8:00 p.m., looked out, and saw a young man on the porch. He looked directly at her, went back inside, returned in a minute, and walked away, behind Taylor's apartment.

The contents of Taylor's pockets were inventoried. A pocket watch, a wallet with $78, and, on his left wrist, a watch. He wore a large diamond ring.

This, then, was the substance of the murder scene.

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