Courtney Taylor told police that she shot her husband on Jan. 13 because he had spent the majority of a cash settlement she received last year and she shot her two daughters because she didn’t want them growing up without a mother and feeling unloved like she was.
This was part of the police testimony during Taylor’s preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon in Whitley District Court.
She is charged with three counts of murder in the shooting deaths of her husband, Larry Taylor, 56, and their two daughters, Jessie Taylor, 18, and Jolee Taylor, 13. She is also charged with two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder for allegedly pointing a gun at sheriff’s deputies James Fox and Jonas Saunders, who responded to her residence to investigate a call to 911 about the shootings.
Saunders shot her once in the upper torso and once in the stomach.
Security was tighter than normal Wednesday with Sheriff Colan Harrell and several court bailiffs and deputies on hand for the hearing. The first three rows behind the defense table were literally roped off with “Keep Out” signs prior to the start of the hearing.
Taylor herself was only in court very briefly prior to the start of testimony Wednesday.
Special Judge John Chappell entered the courtroom about 12:59 p.m. and Taylor’s attorneys, public advocate’s Ron Findell and Roger Gibbs, quickly asked if they could approach the bench. They informed Chappell that their client wanted to waive her right to be present for the preliminary hearing but not waive her right to the preliminary hearing itself.
“She really doesn’t want to be out here hearing anything or facing the other side of the family,” Findell informed the judge.
Chappell was appointed as special judge in the case after Whitley District Judge Fred White recused himself.
Chappell noted that case law would allow Taylor to waive her physical appearance for the hearing but that she would have to do so in person, and he instructed bailiffs to have her brought into the courtroom.
“With the stakes involved here we want to make sure we do everything correctly,” Chappell noted while waiting for Taylor to be brought into the courtroom.
A short time later, Whitley County Jailer Brian Lawson wheeled Taylor into the courtroom in a wheelchair. She was wearing either a pink jail jumpsuit or possibly pink hospital scrubs.
Chappell then informed Taylor that her lawyers had informed him that she wanted to waive her right to be present for the hearing, and asked her if that was correct?
“That is correct your honor,” she replied.
Chappell also informed her that this meant she wouldn’t be able to directly hear the evidence presented in her case and if she was doing this of her own free will, and she responded that was the case.
“She may be returned to the detention facility,” Chappell said a few seconds later after noting this was a critical stage in the proceedings.
Chappell then asked Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Stephens to call his first witness, who was Kentucky State Police Detective Billy Correll, who investigated the murder case.
Correll testified that after families members and Jessie Taylor’s boyfriend, Michael Rose, had been unable to get a hold of anyone at the home all day, Daniel Taylor, a relative went there to investigate.
Rose told police that he had gone to the residence earlier in the day and could hear a dog barking inside but no one answered the door and the family’s two vehicles were there.
When Rose went back to the residence, he met with Daniel Taylor, who forced the back door open, while Rose waited outside.
Correll testified that Daniel Taylor discovered Courtney asleep on the couch in the living room and that he removed a 9mm handgun from her possession, unloaded it, and placed it on a bar or table in the kitchen.
Daniel Taylor then tried to wake Courtney Taylor up and was successful in doing so.
He then went into Jessie Taylor’s bedroom where he found her in her bed with a gunshot wound to the head, Correll testified.
Daniel Taylor then left the residence and called 911 about 10:12 p.m.
Fox and Saunders were the first officers to arrive at the scene. By that time, Daniel Taylor was outside with some other family members.
After speaking with family members, Saunders and Fox entered the home through the backdoor that Daniel Taylor had forced open.
Courtney Taylor, who had a firearm, soon confronted them in a hallway.
She was asked to drop the weapon, then elevated the small black handgun and pointed it towards Saunders, who shot her twice.
Deputies then called for an ambulance and performed first aid until Whitley County EMS arrived, Correll testified.
She informed officers that she wanted to die, and had a do not resuscitate order in place, Correll testified.
“She stated, ‘It isn’t supposed to be this way. Just let me die,’” Correll testified.
Police then found the three family members dead in their respective bedrooms.
Officials determined that each had been shot at least one time to the head. All the wounds were classified as “near contact wounds,” which meant that the shots were all fired from a very close range from the victims.
Correll testified that he interviewed Courtney Taylor for about 90 minutes on Jan. 16 at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, and she indicated that she killed her husband and two daughters.
Correll said that when he spoke with Courtney Taylor she didn’t go into great detail about why she shot the victims.
Correll said that her reasoning for shooting Larry Taylor was because she had received a $264,000 cash settlement last year that was deposited into a bank account.
When she went to check the balance, the money was all gone except for a small amount left in the bank account.
Correll testified that after the shooting, police recovered about six pages of handwritten notes that had been discarded in a kitchen garbage can, and a spiral notebook on the couch where Courtney had been sitting that had some information about why she killed her daughters.
Correll testified that Courtney Taylor indicated she grew up feeling unloved and without a mother in her life, and she didn’t want her daughters to have that same feeling.
Correll testified that on the morning of Jan. 13 after the shootings, Courtney Taylor left the house and went to South Side Tobacco where she purchased a pack of cigarettes and a can of soda.
Inside the home, police found various firearms, and one prescription pill bottle for a popular blood pressure medication.
Kentucky State Police Detective Jesse Armstrong, who investigated the officer-involved shooting, also testified Wednesday. He took a statement from Courtney Taylor at the Whitley County Detention Center on Jan. 26, which is the day after she was released from the hospital.
Armstrong testified that the gun Courtney Taylor pointed at Saunders was the same gun that Daniel Taylor had taken from her while she slept, and then unloaded and placed in the kitchen.
The gun wasn’t loaded and there was no ammunition magazine inside the weapon when she pointed it towards Saunders, he testified.
Armstrong said that at some point Courtney Taylor apparently retrieved the gun from the table or bar area in the kitchen before pointing it at Saunders.
Defense attorneys called no witnesses, which isn’t uncommon during a preliminary hearing.
After the testimony, Chappell ruled that he found probable cause based upon the testimony presented in court and he forwarded the cases onto the Whitley County Grand Jury.
Chappell originally ordered Courtney Taylor to appear in Whitley Circuit Court on Feb. 20 to see whether the grand jury has indicted her. Chappell later changed the circuit court appearance date to March 20 in order to give prosecutors more time to prepare the case for presentation to the grand jury. This will likely take place when the grand jury meets to consider evidence in cases on March 6.
Defense attorneys then approached the bench where a brief discussion was held, which largely wasn’t audible to those in attendance. A review of the video from the district court hearing indicated that defenses asked to have their client transferred to the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women at Pee Wee Valley, which is a women’s prison with a hospital unit.
The Whitley County Detention Center wanted to transfer her to the prison due to her medical condition, Gibbs noted.
Chappell said that his understanding is this is what the jail wishes to do due to the liability of having a prisoner there with Taylor’s medical needs, and he thinks that is in the best interest.
“I think that is standard protocol for someone, who is severely injured or has severe medical issues to that extent,” he added.
Chappell noted that he didn’t feel he needed to issue an order about the matter but could issue one to have her transported if the need arose.
He ordered that Courtney Taylor’s bond remain the same, which is $1 million cash.
Chappell concluded the hearing about 1:39 p.m.
After the hearing, Gibbs declined to make any comments on his client’s behalf.
Some members of the Taylor family were in court Wednesday for the hearing.