News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 2, 2014

December trial date set for Earl Taylor

Facing murder charge in 1975 death of first wife

TERRE HAUTE — A December trial date has been set for a man accused of killing his first wife, Kathy Taylor, 39 years ago.

Earl Taylor, 62, appeared via video Wednesday morning in Vigo Superior Court 1, where he requested a public defender in the first-degree murder case.

Taylor was convicted of murdering his second wife, Mindy, whose body was recovered in 1987 from her submerged car in a pond off of Poplar Street near Deming Park. Taylor was sentenced to 60 years in prison in that conviction. He served more than 25 years of that sentence behind bars before being released from prison in January.

Judge John Roach set the trial in the Kathy Taylor case for Dec. 8, with an Oct. 7 hearing date.

Roach also stated that because Taylor is being charged under the 1975 statute, he faces either up to life in prison or a sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison, if convicted. Roach told Taylor that he is researching the possible sentence and will advise Taylor of the outcome.

Taylor was arrested Tuesday by the Vigo County Sheriff's Department as part of the renewed investigation into the death of Kathy Taylor, who was reported dead April 2, 1975.

Earl Taylor told investigators he found his wife dead in the bathtub, where an electric clock radio had fallen into the tub. No criminal charges were ever filed in the suspicious death.

The Kathy Taylor cold case will be highlighted on the Aug. 15 TV episode of “Cold Justice,” airing on the TNT Network.

A former Vincennes resident, Kathy Taylor was 23 years old at the time of her death. She lived in C-Mar Estates north of Terre Haute with her 22-year-old husband, a Sullivan County native who was a graduate of North Central High School.

According to a narrative released Tuesday by the sheriff’s department, detectives investigating Kathy Taylor’s death found that after Earl removed her lifeless body from the tub, he did not immediately contact authorities. Instead, he summoned a family member who later reported the death to the sheriff’s department.

Taylor later told deputies that Kathy had been home alone taking a bath when an electronic clock radio fell into the tub. But during the investigation, detectives noticed that the power cord on the clock radio appeared to have been changed to extend its length. The investigation revealed the factory cord length would not have allowed the radio to fall into the bathtub.

Retired Detective Tom Roberts said that during conversations with Earl Taylor, the man offered a methodical minute-by-minute alibi of his whereabouts on April 2, 1975. But police later learned that alibi was not completely accurate.

Detectives also learned that weeks before her death, Kathy Taylor told family and friends that Earl was having an affair and that she was planning to file for divorce. And, just before Kathy’s death, Earl had been terminated from his job with a local insurance company. It was discovered that Earl had taken out five separate life insurance policies on Kathy, without her knowledge or consent.

When told of the insurance policies, Kathy reportedly told the insurance representative that she feared her husband was going to kill her. Several years after Kathy’s death, the same insurance representative learned that Earl Taylor was soon to be married to a woman named Mindy Svadeba of Terre Haute. The insurance representative contacted Mindy and shared the circumstances of Kathy’s death, warning her that she, too, could be in danger.

On Oct. 4, 1987, Mindy Svadeba Taylor’s body was recovered from the driver’s side of her Pontiac Fiero, which was found submerged in a lake off of Poplar Street near Deming Park in Terre Haute.

Earl Taylor at the time told detectives that he and Mindy had difficulty sleeping that night, and at her suggestion, they had gone for a drive at about 3 a.m. He stated that Mindy swerved the car to avoid hitting a raccoon, which was crossing the road in front of them.

He said the car left Poplar Street and began to submerge in a pond. He told investigators that Mindy was unconscious, and he was unable to rouse her. He said after the car filled with water, he opened the passenger door and escaped but was unable to get Mindy out of the car.

An investigation revealed that the seat on the driver’s side of her car was too far back for Mindy to have driven the car. Mindy’s arms were under the seat belt, and her seat belt was snapped into the passenger’s receptacle.

An autopsy revealed that Mindy had died of drowning, and although she had no injuries, there were no signs she attempted to escape the car.

At the time of her death, Mindy left behind three children ages 3, 5 and 7.

The 1987 investigation revealed that Earl had taken out $600,000 in life insurance on Mindy, and also on a woman with whom he was having an affair at that time.

Earl Taylor was arrested for the murder of his second wife. He was later tried and convicted by a jury.

As part of an ongoing review of cold cases, sheriff’s officials recently re-opened the Kathy Taylor death investigation.

Detectives worked for months examining evidence, in addition to tracking down and re-interviewing witnesses from nearly 40 years ago.

Retired detectives, as well as the first deputy on the scene in 1975, recently shared first-hand knowledge of the case with VCSD Capt. John Moats and Detective Derek Fell. Forensic pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr also aided in reviewing the case, before it was presented to Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt for an arrest warrant for murder.

The warrant for Taylor’s arrest was issued Tuesday, and he was charged under the 1975 statute for first-degree murder.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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