Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Theo Durrant

Suspicion

For some unknown reason, Tryphena Noble waited three days before she reported Blanche's disappearance to the police. Immediately, suspicion fell on Theo Durrant, who, upon closer examination, seemed to be preoccupied with sex. Schechter and McConnell agree that Durrant had confided in a fellow student that he "had no knowledge of women." Another account of the crime, in "Crimes and Punishment," recounts how police learned that another young lady of Emanuel Baptist Church had once been accosted in the library of the church by Durrant in, as she delicately put it, "his birthday suit."

In contradiction to the claim that Durrant was a virgin, "Crimes and Punishment" claims Theo bragged of his exploits in the brothels of Carson City and once boasted that he had raped an Indian woman, although McConnell — who wrote the most in-depth study of the crime — makes no mention of this.

Regardless, Durrant did little to allay suspicions of his involvement in Blanche's disappearance.

"Perhaps," he told police. "She has wandered from the moral path and gone astray."

Later, he appeared at Tryphena Noble's home with his copy of Thackery for Blanche and spoke of his fear that her niece had been kidnapped and would be forced into a life of prostitution. He vowed to rescue her from this horrid fate.

Down in the city's Tenderloin district, Durrant attempted to pawn some women's rings, but was unable to strike a deal with a pawnbroker. Shortly afterward, Mrs. Noble received three rings belonging to Blanche in the mail. They were wrapped in a paper bearing the name George King, she would later testify in court.

But without a body and no sign of foul play, the police could only file away the disappearance of Blanche Lamont and hope that either the young woman would turn up alive or that more clues to her fate would reveal themselves.

In the meantime, Theo Durrant began paying attention to another church-going young lady, Minnie Williams, 21. It was on Good Friday, April 12, 1895 that Minnie bade farewell to her boardinghouse companions and headed off to a Christian fellowship meeting at the home of an Emanuel Baptist Church elder. That was at 7 p.m.

A few moments later, Minnie was observed speaking sharply with Theo Durrant in front of the church. Their conversation was so heated that a man named Hodgkins who was on his way home down Bartlett St. stopped to intervene.

"His manner was unbecoming to a gentleman," Hodgkins recalled later, according to Schechter. The peace restored, Minnie and Theo entered the church together and Hodgkins went on his way.

Two hours later, Durrant arrived at the home of Mrs. Mary Vogel, whose husband was in charge of the Christian fellowship meeting. Mrs. Vogel was one of the witnesses who saw Theo and Blanche Lamont go into the church nine days before.

Testimony at his trial revealed that Durrant appeared shaken and disheveled at the Vogel house and that before joining his friends in the meeting, announced that he had to wash his hands. He did so and by the time the meeting broke up at close to midnight, he appeared to be no longer upset. The only odd thing anyone noticed was that upon leaving the Vogel home, Durrant mentioned that he had to return to the church because he had "left something."

As he was a member of the California Signal Corps, the precursor to the National Guard, Durrant left San Francisco on Saturday, April 13 and headed to a bivouac on Mount Diablo.

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