Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

New Beginnings

Without a clear career goal in mind, William held a variety of jobs. He worked on a railroad, waited tables and did manual labor. For a while, he trudged door-to-door soliciting subscriptions for magazines.

Eventually he found his way to New York City and the theater there. On December 7, 1901, he married the well-to-do Ethel May Harrison, a pretty blonde who acted under the name 'Effie Hamilton.'

Unable to support his family as an actor, William left the stage to manage an antique store, which was financed by his father-in-law. After Ethel became pregnant, she abandoned paid work for full-time homemaking. William did well in the antique business. He was urbane and sophisticated, and had a reliable knowledge of antiques.

However, as the years went on, he was increasingly bothered by minor health problems and seemed uneasy and bored. He apparently tried to spice up his life with a series of casual affairs. That must not have worked because he began to drink heavily.

It was on September 26, 1908, that William took the coward's way out of an unhappy marriage. He asked underlings at his antique store to bring him $600 in cash. They did and he put $500 of it in an envelope and told them to give it to his wife.

With the remaining $100 in his pocket, he walked out of his wife and daughter's lives without an explanation or apology.

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