Growing up in Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben neighborhood in the late 1970s, I once heard a story about a kid who had killed his parents. I didn’t think much of it, not sure if it was true.
But while covering the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald in 1993, I learned the tale wasn’t some urban legend.
I was chatting with a senator from Hastings, Ardyce Bohlke, and found she’d actually grown up in my old neighborhood. That’s when she told me she had lived down the street from and gone to school with Leslie Arnold — the kid who killed his parents and later escaped from prison.
From that moment, I was hooked.
I pulled all our old clips. I asked for records and collected a treasure trove of never-made-public Arnold documents. I put the story aside for years at a time, making calls when I had the chance.
In 2001, Jim Harding assented to an interview, revealing for the first time details of how he and Arnold broke out that Nebraska’s Corrections Department never knew.
In 2005, I got a call out of the blue from Jim Child, the Presbyterian minister who revealed his own Arnold secret.
In 2010, I met Geoff Britton, the Nebraska Corrections investigator who shared my Arnold obsession.
And this year, Leslie’s brother, Jim, finally agreed to tell his painful story.
Now, 50 years after the escape and nearly 25 years after my initial fascination, I’m finally ready to share the mystery of Leslie Arnold.
PART ONE: THE CRIME
Leslie Arnold murdered his parents inside their home on Sept. 27, 1958. Under the questioning of Detective John Barnes, Leslie confessed to the crimes. Then, just after noon, handcuffed to a detective at each arm, Leslie led a grim procession to a corner of his backyard where the bodies were buried. By then a crowd was gathering, including neighbors and a reporter and photographer from The World-Herald. Read the full story