BONNE TERRE, Mo. – A Missouri man convicted of murdering his live-in girlfriend and her three young children was executed Tuesday despite claims he was in another state when the murders took place.
Raheem Taylor, 58, was the third Missouri inmate to be executed at Bonne Terre State Penitentiary since November. It was the country’s fifth execution this year, following earlier executions in Missouri, two in Texas and one in Oklahoma. All were by lethal injection.
Taylor kicked his feet as the 5 grams of pentobarbital were administered, then took five or six deep breaths before all movement stopped. In a closing statement, Taylor said that Muslims do not die, but “live forever in the hearts of our family and friends.”
“Death is not your enemy, it is your destiny. Look forward to meeting it. Peace!” he wrote in the statement.
Taylor, who previously went by the first name Leonard, long maintained he was in California when Angela Rowe, her 10-year-old daughter Alexus Conley, 6-year-old daughter AcQreya Conley, and 5-year-old son Tyrese Conley were murdered in 2004. His supporters included the national NAACP, nearly three dozen civil rights and religious groups, and the Midwest Innocence Project.
But Taylor’s claims of innocence were repeatedly rejected. St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, a Democrat, last week denied Taylor’s request for a hearing before a judge, stating that “the facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence.”
Republican Governor Mike Parson declined to grant leniency Monday, the same day the Missouri Supreme Court denied a request for a stay. Earlier Tuesday, the US Supreme Court declined to intervene.
Gerauan Rowe, Angela Rowe’s sister, said after the execution that moving on remains difficult, more than 18 years after she lost her sister, nieces and nephew.
“I’m at a point in my life right now — I’m OK, but I’m not,” she said. “But I know that justice has been done. It’s quite difficult to move forward, but I think I can do it.”
There is no doubt that Taylor was not in Missouri when the bodies were found. What is not known for certain is when the family was killed.
Taylor and Angela Rowe lived with the children in a house in Jennings, a suburb of St. Louis. Taylor boarded a flight to California on November 26, 2004.
On December 3, 2004, police were sent to the Jennings home after concerned relatives said they had not heard from Rowe. Officers found the bodies of Rowe and her children. All four had been shot.
A medical examiner’s initial finding was that the murders likely occurred within a few days of the discovery of the bodies — when Taylor was in California. But at Taylor’s trial, medical examiner Phillip Burch said the murders could have happened two or three weeks before the bodies were discovered.
Taylor’s attorney, Kent Gipson, said several people, including Rowe’s relatives and a neighbor, saw Rowe alive in the days after Taylor left St. Louis. Meanwhile, Taylor’s daughter in California, Deja Taylor, alleged in a lawsuit that she and her father called Angela Rowe and one of the children during his visit. According to the court, Deja Taylor’s mother and sister have confirmed her story.
Bob McCulloch, who was St. Louis County’s elected prosecutor at the time of the murders, said Taylor’s claim of innocence was “nonsense” and that the alibis provided by his daughter and her relatives were “completely fabricated.”
McCulloch told The Associated Press that there was evidence that Rowe and the children were killed either on the night of November 22 or on November 23, at a time when Taylor was still in St. Louis. He noted that Rowe typically made about 70 outgoing calls or texts each day. As of November 23, she made none.
Meanwhile, DNA from Rowe’s blood was found on Taylor’s glasses when he was arrested, a family member driving him to the airport saw Taylor throw a gun into the sewer, and Taylor’s brother told police Taylor admitted to the crime, McCulloch said. Authorities believe Taylor shot Rowe during a violent argument and then killed the children for being witnesses.
All three recent executions in Missouri involved St. Louis County cases. Kevin Johnson was executed in November for killing a police officer in 2005. Amber McLaughlin was executed on January 3 for killing a woman in 2003. This was thought to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the US.