The suspicious death of a 23-year-old Indiana woman back in 1975 remained cold for decades until investigators recently reopened the case and made an arrest.
Earl Leslie Taylor, 62, was arrested July 1 on a charge of first-degree murder for the death of his first wife, Kathy Taylor, who was found dead in their Terre Haute home on April 2, 1975.
Taylor, a former insurance agent, was released from prison in January after serving more than 25 years for the 1987 murder of his second wife, Mindy Svadeba Taylor.
The Vigo County Sheriff’s Office worked for months combing through evidence, reviewing police reports, and re-interviewing witnesses from nearly 40 years ago. With the assistance of “Cold Justice,” a TNT television show that looks into unsolved murder cases, police felt they had enough evidence to present the case to Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt for an arrest warrant for murder.
It was the evening of April 2, 1975 when Earl Taylor, then 22, reported finding Kathy dead in the bathtub of their home. However, when police arrived at the scene, Kathy’s body was on the floor of the bathroom, outside the tub.
“Taylor stated that he went into the bathroom, he found his wife, Kathy Taylor in the bathtub in about eight inches of water and a clock radio was between her legs which was plugged into the wall outlet,” a probable cause statement read. “Earl Taylor stated that he unplugged the clock and then pulled Kathy Taylor out of the bathtub and laid her on the floor and covered her with a blanket.”
According to police, Taylor called his father, not authorities, after finding his wife’s body.
The investigation revealed that the power cord on the clock radio had been changed to extend beyond its standard length, which would not have been long enough to allow the radio to fall into the tub.
After reopening the case, detectives called on Dr. Roland Kohr, a board certified forensic pathologist, to review Kathy’s autopsy report.
“Dr. Kohr stated that he believed the autopsy report findings were more consistent with death caused by drowning rather than electrocution, which led him to the belief that the crime scene had been staged,” according to the probable cause statement.
Police also said they found it suspicious that Taylor offered a methodical minute-by-minute alibi of his whereabouts for the day his wife was discovered.
Just prior to Kathy’s death, Taylor was fired from his job at a local insurance company. Taylor had taken out several life insurance policies on Kathy without her knowledge or consent, police said. Court documents state that when Kathy found out about the life insurance policies, she told an insurance representative that she feared her husband was going to kill her.
Several years after Kathy’s death, Taylor became engaged to Mindy Svadeba. After hearing about the engagement, the insurance representative called Mindy to warn her about her soon-to-be husband’s past and the circumstances of his first wife’s death, documents state.
Coincidentally enough, Mindy’s body was found inside her car submerged in a lake in October 1987. Police said Taylor told them that he and his wife had decided to go out for a drive when the car swerved and plowed the lake. Taylor told police that he couldn’t wake up his wife and escaped the car, unable to save her.
An investigation revealed that Taylor had taken out $600,000 worth of life insurance on his second wife before her death.
Tried and convicted for his second wife’s murder, Taylor was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 1988. He was released in January 2014.
Now, just months after his release from prison, Taylor is being held at the Vigo County Jail, accused of his first wife’s murder.
HLN reached out to Taylor’s defense attorney, but calls were not returned.
TNT's Cold Justice airs Friday nights at 9/8c.