Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

Butler #1

Edward F. Sands, suspect
Edward F. Sands, suspect

Right after the murder, police attention focused on his ex-valet, Edward Sands. Short and fat, ruddy-complexioned with straight, slicked-back brown hair, Sands impressed those who met him as an easygoing, affable sort. He spoke with a Cockney accent and to Taylor, who was a native of Britain, having another Englishman around must have been pleasant. Early on in his tenure, Taylor is said to have pronounced Sands "the most marvelous servant in the world." Paramount art director George Hopkins said Sands seemed like "a Dickens character." The 27-year-old man seemed to enjoy being a servant and once wrote to his employer, "I am your slave for life."

However, Sands had a troubling history that Taylor apparently knew nothing about. His accent was phony. Records show that he had been born Edward Snyder in 1894 in Ohio. He had joined the Navy in 1911 when he was 17. He was court-martialed for embezzlement, convicted and sentenced to a year in a Navy prison. After being released from prison, he was dishonorably discharged.

Incredibly, the dishonorably discharged, convicted thief re-enlisted in the Navy when World War I broke out and was accepted. He became a clerk in the New York Navy Yard. In January 1919, in New London, Connecticut, he deserted.

This was a busy time for the young man. In February he enlisted in the Navy yet again but gave a false name. He called himself by the romantic moniker "Edward FitzStrathmore." Then, after another three months, he deserted again — only to join up with the army a little over a month after that. In May 1919, Edward FitzStrathmore became a clerk in the finance department at the Columbus, Ohio, Army Depot. This must have been a welcome assignment for him. He soon passed a forged check, then deserted the Army in October.

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