William Taylor was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for a murder committed during a robbery. According to court documents William Taylor attempted to rob Sandra Kushmer and her brother and in the process would shoot and kill Sandra. William Taylor would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
William Taylor 2021 Information
|TAYLOR, WILLIAM K
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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.
On Saturday, 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.
The 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.
The 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.
The day 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.
After 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 points.
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. During the penalty phase, the State presented the testimony of the victims of crimes from Taylor’s prior convictions for burglary, first-degree assault, and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, who described the circumstances surrounding the crimes