According to court documents Steven Taylor and an accomplice would break into the residence of Alice Vest. The woman would be sexually assaulted, robbed and murdered
Steven Taylor would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Steven Taylor Photos
Steven Taylor Now
|Name:||TAYLOR, STEVEN R|
|Initial Receipt Date:||12/09/1991|
|Current Facility:||UNION C.I.|
|Current Release Date:||DEATH SENTENCE|
Steven Taylor Case
The record reflects that on September 15, 1990, at about 11:30 p.m., the victim, fifty-nine-year-old Alice Vest, returned to her mobile home in Jacksonville after spending the evening with a friend. Earlier that evening, the appellant, Steven Taylor, and two friends were out driving and listening to the radio. Around midnight, the driver of the car dropped off Taylor and his friend, who was later to become his accomplice, near the victim’s neighborhood.
Sometime in the early morning hours of September 16, a Ford Ranchero was stolen from a residence near the place where Steven Taylor had been dropped off. At about 4:30 a.m., after the vehicle had been stolen, a passing motorist noticed the Ford Ranchero parked in a driveway next door to the mobile home where the victim lived. Later that morning, the Ford Ranchero was found abandoned behind a used car dealership only a few blocks from where Taylor lived at the time.
On the same morning, neighbors discovered the victim’s battered body in the bedroom of her mobile home. The medical examiner testified that the victim had been stabbed approximately twenty times, strangled, and sexually assaulted. The medical examiner further testified that most of the stab wounds were made with a knife found at the scene of the crime, while the remaining stab wounds were made with a pair of scissors that were also found at the scene. The medical examiner stated that the victim was alive while she was being stabbed, that she was strangled with an electrical cord, and that the strangulation had occurred after the victim was stabbed.
The medical examiner also testified that the victim’s lower jaw had multiple fractures and that she had received several blows to her head. The examiner testified that the fractures of the victim’s jaw could have resulted from being struck with a broken bottle found on the bed next to the victim, and that contusions to the victim’s head were consistent with being struck by a metal bar and candlestick also found at the scene. Finally, the medical examiner testified that the victim’s breasts were bruised, and that the bruises resulted from “impacting, sucking, or squeezing” while she was alive. In the medical examiner’s opinion, the victim was alive at most ten minutes from the first stabbing to the strangulation. On cross-examination, the examiner stated that he did not know whether the victim was conscious during all or any part of the attack.
The testimony at trial also revealed that the phone line to the mobile home had been cut, that the home had been burglarized, and that various pieces of jewelry were missing.
In December of 1990, Steven Taylor moved out of the duplex he had been sharing with a friend. In January, 1991, while Taylor’s former roommate was removing a fence behind the duplex, he discovered a small plastic bag buried in the ground near the fence. The bag contained the pieces of jewelry taken from the victim’s home during the attack and burglary. The roommate turned the jewelry over to the police and gave a statement. Later that month, Steven Taylor visited the duplex with some friends. The former roommate testified that, at some point during the visit, Taylor went into the backyard and stared at the place where the fence had stood. During the following month, Taylor again returned to the duplex with friends. One of the accompanying friends testified that Taylor went into the backyard and returned a few minutes later with dirty hands. In response to the friend’s inquiry as to what he was doing, Taylor allegedly responded that he had left some things there and that they were gone.
On February 14, 1991, the Duval County sheriff’s office executed a search warrant on Steven Taylor which authorized the officers to take blood, saliva, and hair samples from Taylor. Taylor was taken to the nurses’ station at the county jail so that the samples could be taken, but not before Taylor invoked his right to counsel. Later that day, after the samples were taken, Taylor asked the investigating officer how long it would take to get the results back. Instead of directly responding to the question, the investigating officer asked Taylor why he wanted to know. Taylor responded that he was just wondering when they would be back out to pick him up. Taylor did not have long to wait. Two days later, on February 16, Taylor was arrested, and, on March 3, a grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Taylor for first-degree murder and burglary. The indictment was amended on September 12, 1991, to add a third count for sexual battery.
At trial, the State presented the testimony of Timothy Cowart, who had shared a cell with Steven Taylor in the Duval County jail. Cowart testified that, in a jailhouse conversation with Taylor in early April, Taylor stated that he had been involved in a burglary and that it was a messy job; that the lady surprised him inside the trailer; and that he stabbed her and choked her and then strangled her with a cord to make sure she was dead. Cowart also testified that Taylor said the State could place him, but not his accomplice, at the scene of the crime, and that the State could convict him with the evidence it had. Taylor allegedly asked Cowart to hide a gun and handcuff key in the bathroom at the hospital; Taylor would then feign an illness, get taken to the hospital, and have a chance to escape.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab analyst, who was an expert in serology, testified that semen found on a bed covering and on a vaginal swab taken from the victim could not be tested. However, the analyst testified that semen found in the victim’s blouse matched Steven Taylor’s DNA profile.
In the guilt phase, Steven Taylor presented only one witness, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agent testified that certain hairs found on the victim’s body and clothing matched the pubic hairs of Taylor’s accomplice. On cross-examination, the agent conceded that it is possible to commit a sexual battery and not leave any fibers or hair. Taylor then rested his case and the jury found him guilty as charged.
At the penalty phase proceeding, the State rested without presenting any additional evidence. Steven Taylor presented the testimony of five witnesses. First, Taylor called Charles Miles, who lived next door to Taylor during Taylor’s adolescence. Miles stated that Taylor frequently played with Miles’ son and that Taylor was always very polite and respectful. Miles testified that on one occasion he and Taylor sat in Miles’ garage and talked at length about religion. Taylor’s next witness was Lloyd King, his uncle. King testified that Taylor had always been a polite person. The third witness, Judy Rogers, was a friend of the family who testified that she thought Taylor had a learning disability. Taylor’s next witness was another uncle, Don King, who testified that, during fifth and sixth grades, Taylor experienced difficulty in reading and that his reading comprehension was poor. King also stated that Taylor was a very passive person. As his last witness, Taylor called his adoptive mother, Lenette Taylor, who testified that Taylor had experienced difficulty concentrating in school and that she had tried unsuccessfully to get him into special education classes. She testified that Taylor’s I.Q. had been tested and found to be around 68 to 70, which, according to her, is in the mildly retarded range. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that, in 1979, when he was nine years old, Taylor had tested in a normal intellectual range. The record further reflects that, although defense counsel had Taylor examined by two mental health experts, counsel found it to be in Taylor’s best interest not to present the experts’ testimony at trial. As an additional mitigating factor, Taylor offered evidence that he was only twenty years old at the time of the murder.
The jury recommended the death sentence by a vote of ten to two. In sentencing Steven Taylor to death, the trial judge found the following aggravating factors: (1) the murder was committed during the course of a burglary and/or sexual battery; (2) the murder was committed for financial gain; and (3) the murder was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner. As the sole nonstatutory mitigating factor, the trial judge found that Taylor was mildly retarded. The trial judge sentenced Taylor to death for the first-degree murder, to fifteen years’ imprisonment for the burglary, and to twenty-seven years’ imprisonment for the sexual battery.