Milton E. Taylor
Race: Black Gender: Male
Offense: Murder 1st
Sentenced to Death: 07/06/2001
Date of Offense: 03/23/2000
On the morning of March 23, 2000, Steven Butler (“Butler”),
a maintenance worker at the Compton Townhouse complex in Wilmington, was
awaiting the arrival of some contractors when he discovered two
unattended children playing in the courtyard.
He recognized the children, ages two and four, as
those belonging to Williams. Before he left to supervise the contractors,
Butler instructed the children to stay away from the street until their
mother came outside to join them.
Williams and her sister, Tawana Ricks (“Ricks”),
previously planned to do some shopping together that morning, but
Williams never arrived at the predetermined location. When Ricks could
not reach her sister by telephone she decided to visit Williams’ home.
Ricks arrived at the Compton Townhouse complex and
discovered her sister’s two youngest children, unsupervised and playing
in the vicinity of her sister’s home. As Ricks was knocking on the
locked door to Williams’ home, Nathaniel Henry (“Henry”), Williams’
uncle, arrived to deliver some furniture. Ricksand Henry grew
increasingly concerned as their attempts to locate Williams failed.
Butler then joined Ricks and Henry. Upon Ricks’
urging, Butler agreed to open Williams’ door. Once inside, Butler and
Henry discovered Williams’ badly beaten and bloody body concealed
beneath a blanket with a bicycle on top.
Williams was bleeding from her nose and had a cord
wrapped around her neck. Williams was not breathing and Butler called
911. Williams was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy later
revealed that Williams was strangled, beaten and cut. The autopsy also
revealed that Williams was pregnant, and that the baby died as a result
Taylor was identified as a suspect in the murder when
police learned that he had a relationship with Williams and that he had
been seen in the vicinity of her home on the morning of March 23, 2000.
On March 25, 2000 the police received a tip that
Taylor was standing at a pay phone on the corner of 9th and Madison
Streets. The police responded to the tip and placed Taylor under arrest.
Although the arresting officers were aware that Taylor was wanted for
questioning in regard to Williams’ murder, the purpose for the arrest
was an outstanding bench warrant.
At the police station, Taylor was taken to an
interview room where Officer Ronald Muniz (“Muniz”) began routine
inventory procedures. Muniz removed a folded piece of paper from the
front pocket of Taylor’s hooded sweatshirt and placed it on the table.
Shortly thereafter, Detective James Diana (“Diana”)
entered the room, picked up the piece of paper, opened it and began to
read it. He quickly realized that the paper contained a handwritten
confession (the “Confession Letter”) and therefore removed the letter
from the other inventoried items so that it could be included as
The Confession Letter provided the basis for a search
warrant for the Victim’s car which was found parked on a street in New
Castle. Inside the car the police found a thirteen-inch knife wrapped in
a bloodstained tee shirt.
The blood on the shirt matched the Victim’s blood
type. During the investigation it became clear that the apparent motive
for the murder was that Taylor’s current girlfriend had given him an
ultimatum: end all contact with Williams or lose the current girlfriend.
Taylor had apparently gone to see Williams to end contact with her and
killed her in the process. Taylor did not testify at trial, nor did he
offer any witnesses.
The trial court instructed the jury on both First and
Second Degree Murder, but denied the defense request for an instruction
on Manslaughter. On March 31, 2001, the jury found Taylor guilty of
First Degree Murder.
At the penalty phase, the jury found, by votes of 12
to 0 respectively, the existence of two statutory aggravating factors:
that the Victim was pregnant, and that Taylor had previously been
convicted of violent felonies. The jury recommended the death penalty by
a vote of 10 to 2, and after careful, independent consideration, the
trial judge accepted the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Taylor to