Longform

THE TRAGEDY OF ERIC TAYLOR

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Carter refused to talk to New Times except to say that he "will come forward at the appropriate time to whoever I feel might be important enough to ask some significant questions."

Sonji Taylor, reached by phone at her parents' home in Texas, would only say, "I'm sure the people you spoke to don't have any insight into the personal problems that [Taylor] was dealing with. People already have preconceived ideas of what happened and I just don't see what else can be done about it. The people who know him know the truth, and the people who don't will give you whatever opinion."

The following chain of events, then, has been pieced together from police reports, interviews with Taylor's friends and eyewitness accounts. Sonji told Glendale police that after Taylor returned from New Jersey, he came to ask again if they could work things out. She told him then that she was pregnant with another man's child, and though Taylor said he still wanted her back, she refused.

The next week he banged on her door twice; she called building security to have him removed. The Sunday before he died, she saw him at church and he spoke briefly with her son, with whom he had been very close.

Doug Shouse and Darryl Williford both knew that Sonji's parents had come to take Sonji and the children back to Texas to get away from Taylor. They heard that Taylor had attempted suicide on Monday, January 10, but had been talked out of it. They had no luck getting any more information than that from the people at Taylor's church. Taylor came to work that day. He had shaved off his mustache, and was quiet and sullen. As Williford says, "We knew what the problem was."

Between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Taylor worked himself into a fatal funk. An exterminator who had come to spray at the apartment building where Taylor was staying with Knox saw a "black male yelling and screaming like he was dying" outside the building. When he came closer to see what the problem was, the man, later identified as Taylor, started screaming, "You're killing them, you're killing them," as if he were hallucinating.

The exterminator went for the building manager, who called police. Taylor had gone by the time the police arrived. The manager later confronted Taylor about the incident, and Taylor frightened her with his excited demeanor.

At 1 p.m., Taylor started phoning his friends. "Get over here, man," he told his supervisor at the Bunkhouse, Terry Bruner. And though his voice was full of urgency, he wouldn't explain what was wrong.

Taylor called Shouse at about the same time, with the same vague urgency. It was out of character. When Shouse and Bruner compared notes, they sensed that Taylor was not in his right mind. Neither knew exactly where he lived and they were a bit afraid to go check on him, because "it wasn't Eric," Shouse says.

Then Taylor called one of Sonji's uncles, who came to his apartment at about 2 p.m.; Pastor Carter and Benny Knox arrived about an hour later. Taylor called Bruner again to say that he'd be late for work, and when Bruner suggested he take the night off, Taylor stoked up, asking if there were problems with his job performance. Then he said he'd be in at 5 p.m., but didn't make it.

According to the police record, Carter left Taylor's apartment at 10:30 p.m., Knox at 11:30 p.m. Sometime that evening, Knox allegedly took Taylor to a local hospital, but Taylor was not admitted. Carter later told police that after counseling with him, Taylor was "feeling good about where his life was at this point and how much other people cared for him."

@rule:
@body:At 2:27 the next morning, Eva Olivas, a part-time employee at the Bunkhouse, heard a crash out in front of the building. When she looked out the window, she recognized Taylor's late-model gray Honda rammed up against an olive tree by the front door. She couldn't see that the car's windshield had been shattered by Taylor's head, and she couldn't see that Taylor was injured, but she did see a tall, black male unfold out of the car, half crawling from the driver's-side door. She assumed it was Taylor.

Then Taylor started screaming, a high, raspy, wordless howl, and it resonated at a pitch that recalled every terror Olivas had ever felt.

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Michael Kiefer