A Florida sheriff thinks he has a serial killer in his lock-up. In late February, Polk County homicide cops arrested three people for the murder of a homeless man whose battered body was found dumped in a Fort Meade orange grove.
Meanwhile, two of the suspects, it was announced Saturday, boyfriend and girlfriend Christopher Taylor and Kristina Sluss, were charged by South Carolina police with the January slaughter of three people in a small town on the North Carolina border.
Now charged with four murders in two states, Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd is convinced there are more bodies and likely dismembered ones: “I don’t believe for a minute that this may be all the people (Taylor) has killed.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Drifters & Murderers, Police Said, Taylor & Sluss Find a Victim to Help Them Run Banking Scams. But John Bowling Was an ‘Aggravation’ & Was Beaten to Death
Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd said Saturday that his detective squad arrested Christopher Taylor, 30, his girlfriend Kristina Sluss, 36, and his younger brother Gary Taylor, 21, in late February. Taylor was charged with the actual murder of 49-year-old John Bowling and his brother and partner were charged with being accessories. Bowling was known as a homeless man in the Winter Haven area.
Judd described what happened in that slaying based on statements made by Gary Taylor and Sluss: “Christopher was just not in a good mood that day and as a result starting beating (Bowles) with a frying pan, called for his brother Gary to bring a bat and beat him over a period of hours brutally, brutally murdering him.” Every time Bowling would come to, Taylor would continue the beating using his fists, an aluminum bat, and skillet before strangling and killing him. Judd said Bowling lived on the streets and rode a bike.
2.Police Charge the Couple & Taylor’s Younger Brother in the Brutal Slaying That Was Followed By Dinner Before the Body Dump
Gary, a 6-foot, 270 pound white male, and his older brother Christopher Taylor, a 170-pound, five-toot-10 white male with facial and neck tattoos, and both with shaved heads, police said, put the bloody, battered body of victim Bowles in garbage bags and Christopher, Gary and Kristina went to eat dinner at the Taylor brothers’ father’s house. After nightfall, they put Bowles in the trunk of their vehicle and set off to dump the body in a remote area outside of Polk County, the sheriff said. But the orange grove they chose in which to leave Bowling wasn’t quite outside the county line, so Polk County homicide detectives, who haven’t had an unsolved murder in eight years, Judd said, got the case. Judd said old fashioned shoe leather-style investigative work led to the arrest of the three Feb. 20. While in custody and during questioning by investigators, it appears Gary and Kristina gave up Christopher. All are being held in Polk County jail.
3. Taylor & Sluss Are Charged With a Barbarous Triple Murder in South Carolina
Before coming to Florida, in January Christopher and Kristina stopped in Landrum, South Carolina to stay with his mother.
In the early morning hours of January 20, in the Spartanburg County town not far from Christopher’s mother’s house, three people were found viciously hacked to death. Florida sheriff Judd said Christopher and Kristina were possibly buying a small amount of pot from the home of the victims when Christopher began a murderous attack. Judd said in the Saturday press conference that Kristina admitted she watched as Christopher “brutally and viciously murdered three innocent people …he used a hatchet.”
“It was brutal,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told local media. “It was a bad crime scene.” Dead were Francis Delancey Richards, and Fred Richards, both 59, and 23-year-old Nathan Louis Poffenberger, whose father discovered the grisly death scene after becoming alarmed that his son had not returned home the night before. Poffenberger often visited the older couple to watch movies his grandmother told local media.
Nathan’s grandmother, Cora Paul, 81, was with her son when they discovered Nathan and the Richards couple brutally slaughtered.
Nathan’s sister Holly said her brother was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Residents of the small community were frightened and “on edge” after the January triple murder and it would be almost three months before there was a break in the case. On March 9, Wright announced the arrests of Taylor and Slauss, or at least the charges; both are in custody in Florida. Each was charged with three counts of murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and armed robbery. It was Polk County detectives’ calls to Spartanburg County investigators that helped move the investigation along; Gary and Kristina were talking to police, likely to save their own necks.
At some point, Kristina Sluss and Christopher Taylor will be extradited to South Carolina and arraigned on charges there.
4. Florida Sheriff Judd Is Convinced Christopher Taylor, With Help From Sluss & His Brother, Is a Serial Killer
Grady thinks there are more bodies. When Sluss and the Taylor brothers were arrested, the younger Taylor, Gary, told police “another one bites the dust.” And Judd said Sluss is cooperating with police.
During a press conference Judd said he believes the couple may be connected to other murders: “You don’t just wake up one day and kill people.” Judd says Taylor may be a serial killer. Saying it’s unlikely the four victims “may be all the people he has killed.”
5. Sheriff: There May be Other Taylor Dismembered Murder Victims in the Southeast
Sheriff Judd says all four murders were extremely brutal, calling them sadistic. In both cases, the victims’ bodies were dismembered or partially dismembered. Bowels’ hand was chopped off. In South Carolina, according to Judd, Kristina overheard her boyfriend confess to his mother he chopped off one of the victim’s heads. After the call, as the couple were driving toward Florida, Christopher said he while he “didn’t cut that boy’s head off, I almost did.”
Judd is convinced that Christopher Taylor has killed others: “I don’t believe for a minute that when you look at this guy,” as he holds up Taylor’s mugshot, ”that this may be all the people he’s murdered. He not only murders people, he savagely murders people.”
Judd makes a plea to citizens and law enforcement throughout the South to reach out with unsolved similar cases.
Taylor is from South Carolina, visited a number of Deep South states including North Carolina, Georgia, and possibly Tennessee. “We need to know if you have any murders in the southeast United States, where the person was dismembered or partially dismembered. Do you have a vicious, outrageous crime scene? And the victims are victims for no apparent reason …if there is another victim who – maybe they have disappeared, no one has heard from them, but one of these two individuals has been in your community. In law enforcement, we call that a clue.”
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