On a Decent Man

John Damon passed away in 2010 in Australia. His family hailed him as a good, decent man, a father who loved music and shared that love with all those in his life whom he loved. According to a son of Damon’s, John was, as far as could be determined, such a good father in part because he himself had been an orphan. Working hard at being a good father seemed to be John’s way of dealing with not having a father as a young person. John’s family knew nothing about John’s origins because John had not discussed much about his past other than he was from Chicago, Illinois, originally.

And so, a few years after John’s death, one of John’s children did what so many these days are doing–he took a DNA test to see if he could connect to anyone from his dad’s family. And he got some hits. One person who reached out to John’s son was a man named Matthew Westover. Westover’s DNA profile on the website said that he was a sibling to John Damon. It seemed that at last all the secrets of John’s past, and the reasons for his being an orphan, were about to come to light. John’s family started making plans to go the US to meet what they thought would be their new family members.

But things aren’t always what they seem, are they? This Matthew Westover fellow ended up not being who he said he was. In fact, he wasn’t related to John Damon at all. Turns out he had simply uploaded someone else’s DNA, someone who was really related to John. He was using the fake profile on the DNA site to find relatives of John, and his ruse worked. The family, understandably confused, put their trip on hold for the moment. What was Westover wanting with a man who had been dead for several years?

Westover tried to explain himself over the phone to the family. He was looking for John Damon because, well, he knew things about John that the family had a right to know. He told them that he knew, for example, that John had been an excellent student in high school. He told them that John had a girlfriend in high school, and that he was in love with her. He told them that John had also spent time in prison.

And then, Westover told them why.

You see, Matthew Westover was actually a United States Marshal. He was investigating John Damon because Damon was an escaped convict who had evaded the law for over 50 years. And his name wasn’t John Damon, actually. It was William L. Arnold from Nebraska. The family was stunned. Nothing Westover told them matched the decent man they knew and loved. Nothing made sense. Was anything they believed about their beloved John Damon the truth?

But then, the story took an even darker turn. Westover told them that, yes, it was true that Arnold/Damon was indeed an orphan. His parents were shot and killed on a night that Arnold/Damon had taken the high school girlfriend, the one he was in love with, to the drive in movie theater in Omaha in the family’s car. Arnold/Damon had been in a heated argument about that, in fact. His mother didn’t want him to go, and Arnold/Damon insisted that he be allowed to go. And so, as defiant teens often do, he chose to go anyway.

But, before he took the car against his parents’ wishes, the decent father, the man who loved music, the kind man the Damon family knew and loved, killed both of his parents.


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