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‘Air-Tight Alibi’: Lawyers for a Black Man Facing Execution Next Month Say He Was 1,800 Miles Away When the Victims Were Killed

A Missouri man is scheduled to be executed in less than a month for the murder of his girlfriend and her three children, but he and his attorneys claim he was not in the state when the victims were killed.

Leonard “Raheem” Taylor is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, Feb. 7, for the killing of Angela Rowe and her three children, Alexus Conley, 10, AcQreya Conley, 6, and Tyrese Conley, 5, in December 2004, murders he says he did not commit.

However, Taylor contends he is innocent and had no reason to kill his lover and her family. He now hopes a review of the case with fresh eyes will motivate the prosecution to drop the charges and save his life.

Leonard "Raheem" Taylor is scheduled to die by lethal injection
Leonard “Raheem” Taylor is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (Photo: Twitter/Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)

On Friday, Jan. 6, lawyers representing Taylor filed a renewed request to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office to review the 58-year-old’s case, alleging the prosecutors who tried the case in 2008 engaged in misconduct to secure his conviction, according to KansasCity.com. At the center of the argument is when the woman and children were killed.

“The biggest thing is the time of death,” Taylor’s attorney Kent Gipson said in an interview.

Taylor’s lawyers say they can prove that he didn’t kill Rowe and the Conley children, claiming he had “an airtight alibi,” placing him far away from the crime scene.

A little over 18 years ago, the four were found fatally shot in their St. Louis residence on Dec. 3, 2004. According to the medical examiner, an autopsy concluded the family was killed two to three days before their bodies were found in the home.

The defense argues Taylor was thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, arguing he took a flight to California a day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, 2004 – a week before the murders. They also allege “after the authorities learned of Leonard’s airtight alibi, the shenanigans began.”

During the trial, the medical examiner stated the murders could have transpired two to three weeks before the bodies were discovered, adding almost half a month to the window of when they were killed. However, the expert said he changed his estimation based on the temperature inside the home. It was around 50 degrees, and the bodies could stay intact.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that an investigator found Rowe’s body at the crime scene still in rigor mortis, which typically sets in within 12 hours of death and dissipates by 36 hours after its onset. However, it is not clear whether the jury heard this evidence.

The defense argues they never received this new information before it was presented in court and could not rebut with a different expert witness’ opinion regarding the time of death.

The jury also heard but discounted the testimony of Rowe’s sister, a neighbor, and two of the children’s aunts told police officers they had either saw or talked to Rowe on Nov. 27, Nov. 28, and, or Nov. 29, days before her and her children’s bodies were found.

Taylor’s then-13-year-old daughter also spoke to Rowe, his attorneys say.

On Monday, Jan. 9, Gipson and his co-counsel Kevin Schriener submitted statements from Taylor’s now 31-year-old daughter and her mother about his time in Los Angeles, Fox 2 reports.

“My father and Angela told me that they wanted me to come out to St. Louis to meet her and her children in person,” Deja Taylor wrote. “I was so happy to connect with my father and his new family that I cried quite a bit that day.”

Prosecutors argued Rowe’s phone service carrier, Charter, did not show calls to or from Rowe’s home phone after Nov. 24, 2004. This is debunked by Taylor’s defense, which pointed to a disclaimer posted by Charter that said the company’s phone records might not be accurate. They also noted that other carriers show that calls were made.

Much of the prosecution’s case relied on the testimony of Taylor’s brother, Perry Taylor.

Perry Taylor told police that his brother told him he murdered the family before he left for Los Angeles. However, in the courtroom, Perry Taylor changed his testimony. The defense alleges the brother’s original statement was “induced by threats of imprisonment and coercion” by police.  

On top of the retraction, Taylor’s attorneys said their client had no motive to kill his girlfriend and that, despite this, the prosecution never properly investigated alternative suspects.

Gipson’s team is also asking to have ballistics evidence be submitted to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for review, and have noted the murder weapon used in the murder was never recovered.

Christopher King, a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, Wesley Bell, said, “We did receive materials from Taylor’s defense team Friday. We are reviewing them now.” 

In the interim, a petition on Change.org addressed to the state’s governor is picking up steam.

It asks the public to join “in asking Governor Parson to grant a reprieve to Raheem so that the St. Louis County CIRU will review the new evidence in his case, and he can have the opportunity to prove his innocence.”

On the petition, Smith alleges a few of the 20 people on death row are victims of former Saint Louis County’s prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s misconduct while in office, saying, “We need to move into the next phase of holding Bob McCulloch accountable for decades of prosecutorial misconduct, racial biases, and targeting of the poor and marginalized.”

Adding over the almost three decades, he served in his elected position, “many, including the six individuals sentenced to death from St. Louis County (that were on death row as of 2022),” are victims of “the lingering atrocities of his reign.”

Taylor hopes with the review of this information, he will be freed and reunited with his family.

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