Who Is Leonard Taylor? Missouri to Execute Man over 2004 Murders

A Missouri man is facing execution on Tuesday for the 2004 killings of his girlfriend and her three children.

Leonard Taylor, 58, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on February 7.

Police officers found the bodies of Angela Rowe, her 10-year-old daughter Alexus Conley, 6-year-old daughter AcQreya Conley, and 5-year-old son Tyrese Conley.

All four were found shot inside their home in Jennings, Missouri, on December 3, 2004, after Rowe’s relatives asked police to go to her home as they had not heard from her for several days.

Leonard Taylor is facing execution
Leonard Taylor, 58, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on February 7.
Missouri Department of Corrections

Taylor, Rowe’s live-in boyfriend, who had a criminal record for drug and fraud-related offenses, was arrested in Kentucky a few days later. He was convicted in 2008, but maintains he was thousands of miles away at the time of the killings.

In January, Taylor’s attorney Kent Gipson sought a hearing on his client’s innocence claim under a provision in Missouri law that allows a prosecutor to file a motion asking for a hearing before a judge if there is new evidence of a wrongful conviction.

But St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said on Monday that he would not file that motion.

“The facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence,” he said in a statement.

However, Bell said he would support a stay of execution “so his counsel may further investigate the time that the victims died.”

Bell has been contacted for further comment.

Exactly when the victims were killed is crucial to Taylor’s innocence claim because he had boarded a flight to California on November 26, 2004—eight days before their bodies were found.

Gipson said authorities first thought the killings had happened a few days before the bodies were found, when Taylor was in California.

But at his trial, medical examiner Phillip Burch said the killings could have happened two or three weeks before the bodies were discovered.

“Several of (Rowe’s) family members, and a neighbor who had no reason to lie at all, saw her alive after Leonard left town,” Gipson told the Associated Press.

Gipson said he would ask the state Supreme Court to postpone Taylor’s execution by three or four months to allow more time to investigate the innocence claim.

Missouri risks executing a potentially innocent man if the court does not intervene, he said.

“I think any fair-minded person that looks at all the evidence we have now would have serious doubts about whether he’s guilty, and that’s all we’re really asking for—to be able to be given an opportunity in front of a judge,” Gipson added. He has been contacted for further comment.

On Thursday, attorneys from The Midwest Innocence Project, the Innocence Project, and nonprofit, public interest law practice Philips Black urged Missouri Governor Mike Parson to appoint an independent board of inquiry to evaluate Taylor’s innocence claim.

In a court filing, they noted that several experts believe Burch’s trial testimony about the time of the killings was inaccurate.

It also noted that Taylor’s daughter, Deja Taylor, who was 13 at the time, had provided a sworn declaration that she and her father had called Rowe during his visit to see her in California.

“Taylor put Deja on the phone during that conversation, and she briefly spoke to Angela and one of the children,” the filing states. It adds that Deja Taylor’s mother and her sister corroborated her story.

If Taylor’s execution goes ahead on Tuesday, he will become the third inmate put to death in Missouri in three months.

Kevin Johnson was executed on November 29, 2022 and Amber McLaughlin was executed on January 3 in what was thought to be the first execution of a transgender person in the U.S.

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