Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

Did Butler #2 Do It?

Henry Peavey
Henry Peavey

Early in the investigation, authorities cleared Taylor's current valet, a tall, muscular, black man named Henry Peavey, of any involvement in the slaying. However, a reporter named Florabel Muir was convinced that he was the killer. She believed she could trick Peavey into a confession, getting justice for the dead man and a great scoop for herself. She enlisted two men, Frank Carson and Al Weinshank, in a plan. Muir went to Peavey and pretended that she did not know where in Hollywood Park Cemetery Taylor's grave was located. Could he guide her to it in exchange for $10? Peavey said he would. Muir, Carson and Peavey drove to the site.

When they got there, Weinshank, covered in a white sheet, appeared and shouted, "I am the ghost of William Desmond Taylor. You murdered me. Confess, Peavey!"

Peavey burst out laughing. Then, realizing what the trio had tried to do, he loudly and furiously denounced them all.

As it happened, Weinshank was one of the gangsters who died in the infamous St. Valentine's Day massacre.

While the police were satisfied that Peavey had nothing to do with Taylor's death, others beside Muir have thought he might have been the murderer. It is speculated that he and Taylor were having a gay affair and that Peavey may have killed his employer-lover in a fit of jealous rage.

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