John J Darby spent more than twenty years in movies, but had only one credited appearance. If he hadn't been murdered, we would know nothing about him.
His one credit was for The Hour of Reckoning (1927), a silent film about a clerk in a safe-manufacturing firm who is accused of embezzling money and somehow clears his name by rescuing the owner's son from a locked safe. John played an unspecified minor role. No one has seen the film since the twenties; it probably no longer exists. The picture above was probably taken around that time.
John was a fairly wealthy man. He owned an apartment building in Hollywood and lived on his own in the small apartment above the garage. He didn't need to work, but he took jobs as a crowd-scene extra from time to time as a sort of hobby. He liked to hang around in the glamorous atmosphere of the studios, watching famous actors and artistic people at work. Also, the long hours spent idly on the movie sets provided a pleasant opportunity to meet attractive young men, new in town and maybe a little lonely, who might be interested in spending a little time with a friendly, well-off older man who would be happy to spend a little money on them in return.
But John didn't restrict himself to aspiring actors, although things might have worked out better for him if he had.
On 13 December, 1946, when John was 53, he met Leon Douglas, a 21-year-old attendant in the psychopathic ward at the Sawtelle veteran's hospital, and took him back to his place. We don't know what John was doing at the hospital; we only know that Leon was John's last ever pick-up.
John's body was found in his apartment the next day. He was nude. His ankles were bound with a red necktie, and twisted around his neck were a black necktie and a T-shirt. Broken furniture littered the floor, and the walls were splashed with blood. The back of John's head had been smashed in with a heavy ashtray, which lay nearby. A news story reported that "sachet packets were among his clothing and a 16-ounce bottle of an expensive perfume was in his room." The perfume is mentioned so that we're in no doubt about the effeminate nature of the victim, but the significance of the sachets escapes me. Presumably, they were drugs of some kind; that's the implication, at any rate.
Leon Douglas was arrested later that day, just outside Merced, after having driven two hundred and fifty miles in John's 1946 coupe. A motorcycle policeman spotted him driving erratically and called in a description of the car, which the police in Hollywood had realised had been stolen, presumably by the murderer.
Leon, who was on parole following a term in San Quentin for auto theft, was returned to Los Angeles. The police took him to John's wrecked apartment, intending to shock a confession out of him. It worked. He told them he'd met John out at the veterans hospital and that John had invited him to a party. It had soon become clear that there were to be no other guests, but he'd stayed the night, anyway. Later on, they'd started arguing, and he had struck John with the ashtray after John "inflicted a painful injury on him." He claimed he'd thought John was unconscious, and had bound him with the neckties to give himself more time to get as far away as possible.
The police listened to all he had to say, then charged him with murder.
On the day of Leon's arrest, one California paper dubbed the case "the Sachet murder" in an attempt to give it a more newsworthy hook but, in the end, the affair didn't merit a lurid title; it wasn't in the papers long enough for it to stick.
The discovery exactly one month later of the mutilated body of Elizabeth Short, another denizen of the Hollywood periphery, for whom a reporter invented the evocative name, "the Black Dahlia", gave the papers the tantalising mystery of which they'd been robbed by Leon's abrupt confession, and they dropped the sachet murder from their pages - neglecting even to report the guilty verdict - leaving John J Darby as forgotten in death as he'd been unknown in life.
Sources: Picture from the Warren family website; AP and UP syndicated stories from 4 Dec 1946 to Dec 21 1946, appearing in the Nashua Telegraph, the Oakland Tribune (the "Sachet murder" headline), and the Modesto Bee.