William Taylor Florida Death Row
William Taylor on one count of first-degree premeditated murder for the
murder of Sandra Kushmer, one count of attempted first-degree murder for
the attempted murder of William Maddox, one count of robbery with a
deadly weapon, one count of robbery with a firearm, and one count of
armed burglary of a dwelling.
At trial, Renata Sikes established that on Friday, May 25, 2001, she,
along with her daughter Sandra Kushmer and her son William Maddox, went
to visit her husband in the hospital. Kushmer and Maddox left the
hospital in a rental car. At approximately 10:30 p.m. that night,
Sikes called her home and spoke to Kushmer, who advised that “Ken” was
there with Kushmer and Maddox,1
and, according to Sikes, it sounded as though she was having fun.
Thirty minutes later, Sikes again called home to inform her children
that she would remain at the hospital, but there was no answer. Sikes
called her home repeatedly thereafter, but the calls were never
answered. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, 2001, Sikes
returned home. Upon arriving, Sikes noticed that the rental car was
gone, and she observed blood on the outside of her house. In addition,
Sikes discovered her daughter’s medication, purse, and shoes lying
outside on the ground. Upon entering the house, Sikes found Kushmer
lying in a puddle of blood. As Sikes walked further into the house,
she discovered Maddox lying on the bed in a back bedroom. Sikes
observed that Maddox’s face was black and blue, his pillow black with
blood, but he was still alive. Sikes later determined that cameras
belonging to her husband which had been stored in the closet of Maddox’s
room were missing.
Cynthia Byrnes was working at Harry’s Country
Bar on the night of Friday, May 25, 2001, the night of these events.
She saw Kushmer and Maddox enter the bar that night, while Taylor was
also present. According to Byrnes, Maddox was drinking the most
expensive liquor sold at the bar, paying for his drinks with
twenty-dollar bills, and leaving good tips. Byrnes testified that
Maddox, Kushmer, and Taylor left the bar together.
May 26, 2001, Tommy Riley awoke to see Taylor on his doorstep. Later
that morning, Taylor asked Riley to cash a $580 check, but Riley
refused. The name on the two-party check was William Maddox, and it
was from a bank in California, where Maddox lived. Later that evening,
Taylor was in a bar where Riley worked as a bartender, paying for
drinks with twenty-dollar bills. The following morning, Sunday, May
27, 2001, Riley was advised by an employee at Harry’s Bar, where Taylor,
Kushmer, and Maddox had been the night of the murder, that detectives
were looking for Taylor. Riley conveyed this information to Taylor,
and he immediately left Riley’s house in his pickup truck.
detective in charge of investigating these crimes obtained information
that Maddox’s credit cards had been used in Tampa, Florida; Valdosta,
Georgia; and Memphis, Tennessee. Based on this information, she
contacted the United States Marshal’s Office in Tampa, which then
relayed the information to the Marshal’s Office in Tennessee. Deputy
Marshal Scott Sanders of the Memphis office received the information on
May 29, 2001, from the Tampa office that two warrants for Taylor’s
arrest for federal probation violations were outstanding and that Taylor
might be in the Memphis area because he was believed to be in
possession of credit cards that were being used in that location.
Tennessee marshals located Taylor’s pickup truck at a motel, and he was
taken into custody. Sanders wanted to search Taylor’s motel room at
that time but he was unable to do so because he could not locate a
Marshal’s Office consent form. He then obtained a consent form from
the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, added the words “and the U.S.
Marshals Office” to the top of the form, and filled it out, writing in
the motel name and the room number to be searched. Sanders explained
the form to Taylor and told him the consent form was for his motel room.
According to Sanders, Taylor did not express any hesitation in
signing the form.
The search of Taylor’s room revealed a checkbook
wallet containing checks in the name of Bill Maddox, three credit cards
issued to Maddox, credit card receipts, a ticket from a pawn shop in
Memphis, a Discover credit card issued to Sandra Kushmer, and a Texaco
card issued to Barry Sikes, which Renate Sikes testified she had given
to Kushmer. Receipts dated May 29, 2001, indicated that the Maddox
credit card had been used to purchase a gold chain and a wedding band.
The pawn shop ticket with the same date indicated that Taylor had
pawned the two items.
When the lead Florida detective met with
Taylor in Tennessee on May 30, 2001, she asked him for consent to search
his truck. She read the applicable consent to search form to Taylor
and he signed it. Taylor was then presented a consent to interview
form which he also signed. The interview revealed that on Friday, May
25, 2001, Taylor called Kushmer and arranged a meeting at Harry’s Bar.
Taylor disclosed that early that evening, he encountered an unnamed
individual who lived near the bar, and he told this individual that he
(Taylor) wanted to rob the Sikes home. This other person also had an
interest in participating in the crime. Later that evening, Maddox and
Kushmer left the bar with Taylor and they went to the Sikes home.
Taylor confirmed that after the trio had beer and sandwiches, Taylor and
Kushmer left the house and traveled to another bar, where they remained
until approximately 12:30 a.m. They then returned to the Sikes home.
When they arrived, the individual with whom Taylor had previously
discussed the crime was in the driveway. This individual struck
Kushmer on the back of the head with a long black bar. Kushmer fell to
the ground, and Taylor removed two credit cards from her purse.
Taylor admitted that he then went into the Sikes home and discovered
Maddox lying in a puddle of blood. Taylor described the scene as the
other unnamed individual in the bedroom going through the dresser
drawers and a jewelry box. According to Taylor, his partner in this
crime heard a noise, checked outside, and advised Taylor that Kushmer
was now sitting up against the house. Taylor stated that this other
individual then took a shotgun that was leaning against the wall,
telling Taylor, “I’m just going to hit her with it.” While Taylor was
removing the bag containing cameras from Maddox’s room, he heard a
gunshot and went to the back of the house, where this other individual
stated that he had shot Kushmer. Taylor then carried Kushmer into the
house and placed her on the floor. Taylor then fled from the scene in
his truck. The next morning, Taylor and Jose Arano went to Ybor City.
Taylor said it was in a bar there that he used Maddox’s credit cards to
pay for drinks, and a card was also used to purchase food.
after the interview, the lead Florida detective searched Taylor’s truck
and found a black bag on the floorboard which contained cameras and
camera accessories. The detective presented these items to Sikes, who
identified them as belonging to her husband. The detective then went
to a bar in Memphis at which Taylor had used the Maddox credit cards and
spoke with Pamela Williams, who disclosed that Taylor had purchased
drinks for her at the bar on the night of May 28, 2001, and introduced
himself to her as William Maddox. She also showed the detective a note
given to her by Taylor which he signed as “Bill Maddox” and identified
himself as the owner of his own financial corporation.
speaking with Williams, the detective returned to interview Taylor
again. When Taylor was advised by the detective that she did not
believe everything he had related the day before, Taylor told her the
interview was over. However, Taylor continued to speak, and at one
point, he said, “I shot her.” The detective inquired if Taylor
understood that he had terminated the interview and whether he wished to
continue. Taylor replied that he did wish to continue. Taylor then
changed his prior version of the events and stated that after Kushmer
had been hit by the unnamed individual with him, Taylor armed himself
with a shotgun from his truck. Taylor then stated that after he had
burglarized the house and as he was leaving, he saw a movement and fired
the shotgun in that direction. Taylor described that when he
discovered that he had shot Kushmer, he carried her inside the house,
placed her on the floor, threw the gun in the back of his truck, and
immediately left. Taylor then stated that he pawned the shotgun and
threw the clothes he was wearing in a dumpster.
Almost a month
later, the lead Florida detective was informed that Taylor wished to
again speak with her at the jail. When she arrived, Taylor gave the
detective a letter that he had written which stated that during the
earlier interviews, the detective had been “absolutely correct in [her]
constant believing in the [unidentified] person being [Jose Arano].”
According to his letter, after Arano picked up Taylor’s ex-wife, Lorena,
Taylor instructed him to go to the Sikes home and hide in front of the
house with Lorena. Taylor’s letter disclosed that as Taylor and
Kushmer approached the front of the house at approximately 1:20 a.m.,
Lorena came from her concealment and hit Kushmer with a crowbar.
Taylor then removed Kushmer’s keys from her purse, the three of them
entered the Sikes home, and Taylor retrieved the shotgun from his truck.
Taylor’s letter stated that it was Arano who had beaten Maddox with
the crowbar. According to the letter, Lorena then heard a noise
outside. As Taylor went outside, someone turned the corner, and Taylor
fired the gun in that direction. When he realized that it was
Kushmer, he brought her inside the house. Taylor took the cameras, a
couple of watches, and the keys to the rental car. Taylor and Arano
drove away from the Sikes home in separate vehicles (with Lorena riding
in Taylor’s truck), and Taylor threw the car keys for the rental car in a
ditch. The three stopped at a 7-11, where Arano cleaned the crowbar
and placed it in Lorena’s car. Taylor gave Lorena the money and the
watches and advised her to go to Miami.
The medical examiner, Dr.
Lee Miller, testified that the cause of Kushmer’s death was a shotgun
wound to the head that penetrated her arteries and veins, which caused
her to bleed to death. Based on the available evidence, at the time of
the shooting the shotgun had been pressed against Kushmer’s mouth.
The wound path was consistent with Kushmer having been in a sitting
position. The medical examiner was of the opinion that Kushmer’s wound
was inconsistent with being shot by a person standing in the doorway of
the house as she appeared around the corner. Additionally, the
laceration on the back of Kushmer’s head was consistent with being
struck by the butt of a shotgun.
A blood spatter expert opined
that the blood smears on the outside wall of the Sikes home were likely
caused by Kushmer’s bloody hair. Further, high-velocity blood spatter
located to the left of the smears indicated that the spatter was caused
by a gunshot wound. The impact site was consistent with a victim who
had been shot in the mouth while sitting or kneeling at the time. The
blood patterns inside the Sikes home were consistent with Kushmer’s body
having been carried into the home and swung in an arc-like manner
before being dropped on the floor.
Latent fingerprints were lifted
from beer bottles found in the garbage at the scene. A fingerprint
expert matched one latent fingerprint with the known print of Taylor’s
right index finger. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office collected
the shotgun and the pawn ticket from the shop where Taylor had pawned
the item. A different fingerprint examiner was of the opinion that a
thumbprint on the pawn ticket from the shotgun transaction also matched
the known fingerprints of Taylor. The Florida Department of Law
Enforcement tested the shotgun, and two areas tested positive for blood.
DNA testing on the blood from these two areas generated partial DNA
profiles that matched the profile of Maddox at three and four genetic
After hearing the evidence, the jury rendered a verdict
finding Taylor guilty of first-degree murder as to the death of Kushmer,
attempted first-degree murder as to William Maddox, robbery with a
deadly weapon as to Maddox, robbery with a firearm as to Kushmer, and
armed burglary of a dwelling
William Taylor 2019 Information
|Name:||TAYLOR, WILLIAM K|
|Initial Receipt Date:||10/07/2004|
|Current Facility:||UNION C.I.|
|Current Release Date:||DEATH SENTENCE|
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