A man living in Australia under the name John Vincent Damon was actually escaped US prisoner William Leslie Arnold, according to DNA evidence obtained by US Marshals in Nebraska.
Arnold was 16 when he murdered both his parents and buried them in the backyard, according to the US Marshall Service. He told family members and others that his parents had gone on a trip, before confessing to their murder two weeks after their deaths, showing investigators where they were buried.
The teenager received two life sentences in 1959, where he was reportedly a model prisoner for nearly ten years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary. On July 14, 1967, however, he and another inmate escaped from the prison, somewhat shaking that model prisoner record. Arnold and fellow escapee James Harding used masks, obtained through a parolee, to fool the guards during a headcount while they escaped over a high barbed-wire fence, CNN reports.
Arnold moved in with a woman in Chicago before they married and moved to California and later headed to Australia. There he lived, worked, raised a family, and eventually died in 2010, all under the John Vincent Damon alias.
His family never knew of his past, believing their father to be an orphan, according to the Omaha World Herald. They probably never would have found out about their dad – described as a "great father" – had it not been for Arnold's son submitting his DNA to a genealogical database.
In 2020, Matthew Westover, a deputy United States Marshal in Nebraska, had taken over Arnold's cold case.
“One of the guys left the office, and [when you leave] you have to hand over your cases," Westover told CNN. "So one of my buddies gave me this case, as kind of a joke, you know, like ‘you’re never going to find this guy."
Westover did not find Arnold – but he did find his brother, who was happy to provide a DNA sample. The main commercial services do not permit law enforcement to submit DNA, but with the brother's consent, they were able to do so, according to CNN.
Westover submitted this to the same DNA database that Arnold's son used several years later, as he searched for his biological father. When there was a match in 2022, Westover and Damon talked, and Weston told him about his father's arrest, and that the reason why he was an orphan was because he had murdered both of his parents.
“There’s no warning label on the DNA test kit telling you that you might not like what you find,” Arnold's son, who is remaining anonymous, told CNN. “But I don’t regret doing it, and I’m glad I now know the truth about my dad.”