Testimony about the ability of a clock radio to electrocute a person partially submerged in a bathtub is expected today as the 1975 cold case homicide trial of Earl Taylor continues in Vigo Superior Court 1.
Though the man who conducted the original tests on the clock radio in evidence is now dead, Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt is expected to question two other experts about the clock radio that has been preserved in evidence since 23-year-old Kathy Taylor was found dead at her Ce Mar Estates home on April 2, 1975.
Earl Taylor, now 63, was 22 years old at the time of his wife’s death. No criminal charges were filed in connection with the homicide until 2014. Taylor now faces a charge of first-degree murder for the allegedly pre-meditated murder of his wife. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 65 years in prison.
The 12-person jury selected Monday has already heard testimony from Detective Derek Fell that the clock radio had been modified to have a longer cord that would allow the plugged-in clock radio to reach the middle of the bathtub. Fell also testified Wednesday that an identical model of clock radio was purchased by police just a few weeks after Kathy Taylor’s death, and that that unit had a factory-installed shorter cord that would not reach the bathtub when plugged into the bathroom electrical outlet.
Fell stated that he began looking into the Taylor cold case file in early 2014, not long after Taylor was released from prison after serving more than 25 years behind bars for the 1987 homicide death of his second wife, Mindy. Fell testified that he spoke to surviving witnesses who had given statements to police in 1975, and he reviewed evidence preserved in the case.
One witness questioned Wednesday in front of the jury was a former girlfriend of Earl Taylor, who said she had written a bullet-point letter to Kathy Taylor to warn her about statements made by Earl Taylor. In the letter, the girlfriend said she also thought she might be pregnant by Taylor. It turns out she was not.
Cynthia Sue Harshbarger testified that she was 18 years old and still attending high school in Terre Haute when she found out that her 22-year-old boyfriend, Earl Taylor, was getting married to another woman.
Harshbarger, who has lived in northern Indiana for several years, said she was supposed to attend a football game with Taylor one night when he showed up at her house and said he couldn’t stay — because he had to attend a rehearsal dinner for his own wedding. Harshbarger said she felt hurt and used by Taylor, but had also suspected that he had been romantically involved with a third girl at the time.
She said she stayed in communication with Earl, hoping that he would leave his wife and return to her. A few weeks following his wedding, Harshbarger said, she met Earl Taylor for a lunch date. Under questioning by deputy prosecutor Amanda Thompson, Harshbarger explained that she soon wrote the letter to Kathy Taylor in late 1974, and among the bullet-points in that letter she claimed that Earl said he had taken out life insurance on his wife. She also said Earl stated to her that “people have accidents.”
“My full intention of sending that letter was to let her know what her husband had said to me about the insurance and about people having accidents,” Harshbarger said on the witness stand, noting that even though she was only 18 at the time, she recognized danger for his new wife.
A copy of the letter was produced in court and shown to Harshbarger, who was allowed to read it to refresh her recollections from that time.
The jury also heard testimony from a next-door neighbor who still lives in the same house she had in 1975 when the homicide occurred.
Kathy Smith Tingley stated that some of her other neighbors have called her “nosey” through the years, but she said she pays attention to what goes on in her neighborhood, and she was quick to introduce herself to the young Taylor couple who moved into the house behind her in 1974.
Tingley said that Kathy Taylor admitted to her that her marriage to Earl was shaky, and that she was considering a divorce. Tingley also said that on the morning that Kathy Taylor was found dead, she saw Earl leave the house early as usual, but return about mid-morning, which was unusual. She said when Earl left the house a short time later, he took Kathy’s dog with him, and that was also unusual.
Police spoke to her about the Taylors after Kathy Taylor was found dead, Tingley said, and Earl later asked her what she had told the police.
Jurors also heard testimony from Patricia Wilson, who still operates an insurance agency that her late husband started more than 40 years ago. Wilson said she remembered Earl Taylor coming to the agency to take out a $30,000 life insurance policy on his wife. A copy of the policy application showed a signature by Kathy Taylor, but Wilson said she did not remember the young woman coming inside to sign the policy.
However, she said her husband may have allowed Earl Taylor to take the application out to his parked car to be signed by a woman, who Taylor said was his sick wife. Wilson said her husband was kind and would have wanted to help Taylor by allowing him to take the application and bring it back later.
Detective David Thompson of the Terre Haute Police Department also testified that he analyzed the signature of Kathy Taylor on that application, and it did not match other known handwriting samples from her.
The jury did not hear from another potential witness who sold insurance policies.
James Corah did appear in court, however, after the prosecution team of Modesitt, Rob Roberts and Amanda Thompson asked Judge John Roach to reconsider allowing Corah’s testimony about a meeting he had with Kathy Taylor.
Roach again ruled against the testimony due in part to its prejudicial nature.
Outside the presence of the jury, Corah said that he had operated a Farm Bureau Insurance agency in Terre Haute where Earl Taylor was employed for a while. Corah said he became concerned when a secretary brought him five mail-order life insurance policies taken out by Earl Taylor on Kathy Taylor.
Corah said he put those policies in a large envelope and mailed them to Kathy Taylor. A few days later, Corah said, Kathy Taylor met with him and told him she was “mystified” about the policies. Corah said that Earl Taylor had told him that his wife had cancer, but Kathy Taylor told Corah that she did not.
Corah also stated that he spoke to Earl Taylor in February and warned him that if Kathy Taylor “so much as stubs her toe,” he would notify authorities about the insurance policies. Corah said that Earl Taylor acted like did not know what Corah was talking about. A few months later, Corah said, he was watching the evening news on television and found out that Kathy Taylor had died at her house.
Testimony continues today in the trial, and is expected to include a review of the Kathy Taylor autopsy conducted in 1975.
Roach said Wednesday that the trial is on schedule to wrap up today or Friday.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.