CRANSTON – Christmas was fast approaching, as was her younger sister Marjorie’s coming out party, when Dorothy Harriet Arnold decided to do some shopping on the morning of Dec. 12, …
CRANSTON – Christmas was fast approaching, as was her younger sister Marjorie’s coming out party, when Dorothy Harriet Arnold decided to do some shopping on the morning of Dec. 12, 1910.
The 25-year-old woman lived a lavish life as the daughter of Francis Rose Arnold, a Harvard graduate and senior partner in F.R. Arnold & Company which imported fancy druggist’s sup-plies such as powders, soaps and cosmetics. Francis maintained a spacious residence on West 79th Street in Manhattan which he shared with his wife Mary (Samuels), their four children and a staff of servants, cooks, maids and butlers.
When Dorothy announced at 11:00 that morning that she was going to shop on Fifth Avenue for a dress which she could wear to her sister’s party, her mother offered to accompany her. Doro-thy declined the company and set out alone.
Several friends crossed paths with Dorothy that day and later remarked she was in a cheerful mood. She stopped and pur-chased a box of candy at one store and a book at another. She was last seen at 2:00.
By the time her family sat down to dinner that evening, she had not returned. Francis and Mary called friends and relatives but no one knew where she was. Not wanting any media atten-tion, Francis decided not to in-form police but instead hired private detectives to try and locate her. Hospitals were searched, morgues and even jails. But the girl was nowhere to be found. Finally, after several weeks had passed, Francis filed a missing person’s report with the police.
The media attention Francis did not want began at once. Theories concerning Dorothy hiding in Italy, locked in a psy-chiatric hospital, recovering from an abortion or lying somewhere as the victim of murder or suicide passed from person to person.
It appeared that Dorothy had met a 42-year-old engineer named George Stewart Griscom while she was a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. When her parents discovered she had been sneaking away to see him, they explained the rela-tionship was unsuitable for her and forbid her to see him again. Dorothy was not with Griscom, however, as he had been with his parents in Italy since November.
Griscom suggested Dorothy was depressed. She had majored in literature and planned on be-coming a writer but her stories had been rejected by the pub-lishers she sent them to. Her friends agreed she had been depressed as of late but believed it was because Griscom had re-fused to marry her.
Nearly six years passed and no trace of Dorothy Arnold was ever discovered. Then, in April 1916, a man incarcerated at the RI State Prison in Cranston de-cided to make a confession. Oc-tave Charles Glennorris claimed he had helped to bury Dorothy’s body in West Point, New York back in Dec. of 1910.
Glennorris said he had been approached at a 7th Avenue cafe by a man known as “Little Lou-ie” asking him if he wanted to make some easy money. A few days later, he and the man went to a house in New Rochelle and waited in the car as another man carried an unconscious girl out to the waiting vehicle. They transported her to another house in West Point.
Glennorris said he rode next to her in the car and remembered that she was wearing a blue skirt, shoulder wrap, earrings and a signet ring on the index finger of her left hand.
He claimed that, a few days later, the men asked him to return to the West Point house. The girl had died and they offered him $150 to help bury the body. He later told police he didn’t ask the two men anything about themselves but did ask about the girl. He learned her name and was allegedly told that she had died from the effects of an abortion.
Glennorris stated that when he arrived at the old colonial house on the bank of the Hudson River in West Point, he was led down to the cellar where a grave was already partially dug. He said that and Louie made the grave deeper and Dorothy was carried down wrapped in a sheet.
The location was thoroughly excavated and no trace of the missing girl was found there. It was quickly determined that Glennorris had made up the sto-ry. He served the remaining 18 months of his two-year sentence for trying to extort money from a Providence clergyman and then he was released. The following year he was imprisoned again for trying to extort money from the president of a glass company.
More than a century later, the disappearance of Dorothy Ar-nold remains unsolved.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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