Wednesday, March 19, 2003
San Bernardino Officials Report Probe of Murder of Los Angeles Commissioner Taylor at Standstill
By J'AMY PACHECO, Staff Writer
An investigation into the murder of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner H. George Taylor four years ago remains open but is “not going forward,” San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Chip Patterson said yesterday.
“This case is not going forward, unfortunately,” he said. “We have exhausted all of the viable leads, and until new information develops, it’s questionable whether this case can go forward.”
Taylor and his wife, Lynda, were gunned down at their Rancho Cucamonga home on March 18, 1999. The commissioner, who was assigned to the Norwalk courthouse, was ambushed in his car as he returned home from a dinner celebration hosted by the Eastern Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Taylor’s vehicle crashed into his garage. His bathrobe-clad wife was killed in the garage, and police speculated she entered the garage to investigate the crash.
Patterson said the two were killed by shotgun blasts, but declined to say how many shots were fired. They were, he said, shot at “fairly close range.”
He said it was “not real clear” whether there may have been more than one attacker, adding that police are “open to any possibility.”
Patterson said “many, many man hours” have been dedicated to the case. Investigators combed through the family law commissioner’s case files seeking a motive, and also examined cases Taylor handled before he became a commissioner.
“We’re still at a loss to develop a motive,” he said.
The case remains assigned to a team of five detectives headed by Sgt. Bobby Dean. But unless new information comes to light or “someone comes up with a new idea,” there is “not a lot we can do,” Patterson said.
Police are seeking information about a man reported seen leaving the area after the shootings. The man had “gray, shaggy hair and glasses” and drove a “small, white car,” Patterson said. To date, he has not been identified.
Patterson said police are “not aware” of any stops Taylor may have made on the way home from the dinner. He said it wasn’t clear if investigators had interviewed attendees at the dinner, but stressed “investigators would have spoken to anybody we felt reasonably had information that was important.”
Police, he said, “looked into almost every possible angle,” including Lynda Taylor’s work as a counselor.
“Our investigators have not settled on any angle,” he said, adding that when a motive is lacking, police regularly examine the victims’ friends, family, insurance policies and “everything else” in their personal lives.
Because Taylor was assigned to a family law calendar, Patterson said investigators hoped to find cases in which a litigant may have perceived they got a “bad deal” from the jurist. But no information surfaced to move the investigation forward.
The couple’s murder was featured on an episode of the television program, “Million Dollar Mysteries,” and photos of the couple and details of the slaying are posted on a Website for the show.
The killings are also featured in a book slated for release this month, “Murdered Judges of the 20th Century” by Susan P. Baker.
“It’s going to take information we don’t have in our possession,” Patterson said. “Someone perhaps to tip us off anonymously. It would have to be something that would point toward a specific person or persons. Even if we develop a motive, it might help.”
Chris Conway, supervising judge for the Norwalk Courthouse, on Tuesday expressed frustration that the case has not been solved.
“We understand the various investigating agencies are doing all they can,” he said. “There’s a certain frustration that nothing’s been resolved at this point.”
Conway said he misses his former colleague “a lot.”
“We used to go to lunch two or three times a week,” he recalled. “Sometimes, it was just George and I, and sometimes, there were three or four others. It’s a real tragedy. It’s sort of frustrating that they can’t seem to get to the bottom of it.”
Attorney Thomas Gilbride, president of the Whittier Bar Association, also knew Taylor. The fact that Taylor’s killing remains unsolved, he said, is “very disappointing.”
“All of us really liked George,” he stated. “...He was a great guy. It obviously was shocking what happened to him and his wife. We’re all very disappointed that whoever did this hasn’t been brought to justice.”
The year following Taylor’s death, the Whittier Bar Association named its annual judicial officer of the year award after the commissioner. The decision to designate it the H. George Taylor Judicial Officer of the Year award was unanimous, Gilbride recalled.
“Everybody really wanted to honor him; to keep his memory alive,” Gilbride said. “He was such an important person in the Norwalk Courthouse.”
Patterson said rewards totaling $50,000 have been offered in the case. Information can be given anonymously to We-Tip, or can be provided to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Unit by telephone at (909) 387-3589.
Patterson said investigators continue to periodically review the case file, hoping to come up with a new idea.
“Once cases get colder, we go through the information again,” he said.
Although four years have passed, Conway said he still hopes for a resolution.
“All of us, everyone in the court system and especially here in Norwalk, really hope that someday, somehow, the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice and we can find out what happened,” he said.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company