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Suspect Caught in Killings of 4

A multiple offender had allegedly fled after the slayings of his girlfriend and her three children.

December 10, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A San Bernardino County child molester suspected of murdering his girlfriend and her three children near St. Louis last month was captured in Kentucky on Thursday after an intense, nationwide manhunt, authorities said.

Leonard Sheldon Taylor, 40, also is the suspect in a 1990 killing at a San Bernardino apartment complex, where he allegedly shot a 19-year-old man during an argument, police said. Taylor allegedly bragged about that slaying while he was in Missouri, a witness told police investigating the quadruple murder.

On Nov. 25, inside a small, brick home decorated with plastic candy canes and Santa Claus ornaments, Taylor shot his girlfriend, Angela Rowe, 28; her daughters Alexus, 10, AcQreya, 6; and her son Tyrese, 5, law enforcement officials said. Their bodies were not discovered inside the Jennings, Mo., home until Dec. 3.

After the killings, Taylor boarded a flight to Ontario to meet his estranged wife in Highland on Nov. 26, authorities said. He stayed in San Bernardino County for four days before driving across the country with a friend, traveling through Texas, Louisiana and Georgia and ending up at another friend's home in Madisonville, Ky., said Anthony Burke, supervisor inspector for the U.S. Marshals' Los Angeles office.

The investigation led authorities to Kentucky, where police staked out the Madisonville home and then arrested Taylor after he jumped into a car with an unidentified man and they hurriedly drove away, said U.S. Marshals' Chief Deputy Richard Knighten.

Police found Taylor crouched on the floor of the back seat, holding a knife.

"[Taylor] made no move, he made no comment," said Knighten, based in Louisville. "This was a hot one. These killings stirred up the community where it happened. If he was willing to kill children, he was obviously terribly dangerous. We are very elated about this capture."

Investigators said Taylor's criminal record dates to the late 1980s, when he was convicted of narcotics and concealed weapons charges in San Bernardino County. In 1991, Taylor was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration and later convicted for transporting and selling narcotics, and he was convicted of rape and child molestation in San Diego County in 1992.

Investigators said Taylor had used at least 17 aliases, including Michael Chambers, as he was known when he allegedly murdered Jack Lepolo in San Bernardino on Sept. 21, 1990.

"[St. Louis authorities] will certainly have the first volley at [Taylor], but we will definitely not drop this case," said San Bernardino Police Sgt. Mike Desrochers. "We will prosecute."

San Bernardino police arrested Taylor in 1999 for failing to register as a sex offender, but had never linked him to the killing even though he had lived in the same apartment as "Michael Chambers" -- the prime suspect in the shooting death.

St. Louis police have not revealed a motive for Taylor's alleged quadruple murder. Angela Rowe's brother told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Taylor had lived with his sister about a year.

Authorities don't know why Taylor came back to San Bernardino County.

Taylor's wife in Highland was "not very helpful" in the investigation, Burke said.

"We assume [Taylor] was trying to get money to get away," Burke said.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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