Skip to content

Missouri man who killed 4 executed despite innocence claims

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Leonard Taylor. Attorneys for Taylor, a Missouri man scheduled to be executed in February 2023, are seeking a new hearing, citing sworn statements they call “clear and convincing evidence” that he did not kill his girlfriend and her three children. (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP, File)

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend and her three young children was executed Tuesday despite his claims that he was in another state when the killings occurred.

Raheem Taylor, 58, was the third Missouri inmate put to death since November at the state prison in Bonne Terre. It was the nation’s fifth execution this year, following a previous execution 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 final statement, Taylor said Muslims don’t die but “live eternally 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 that 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 killed in 2004. His supporters included the national NAACP, nearly three dozen civil rights and religious groups and the Midwest Innocence Project.

But Taylor’s innocence claims were turned aside time and again. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, a Democrat, last week declined Taylor’s request for a hearing before a judge, stating the “facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence.”

Republican Gov. Mike Parson declined to grant clemency on Monday, the same day the Missouri Supreme Court denied a stay request. Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. 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 justice was served. It’s kind of hard trying to move forward, but I think I can do it.”

There was no question that Taylor was not in Missouri when the bodies were found. What isn’t known for certain is when the family was killed.

Taylor and Angela Rowe lived with the children at a home in the St. Louis suburb of Jennings. Taylor boarded a flight to California on Nov. 26, 2004.

On Dec. 3, 2004, police were sent to the home in Jennings after worried relatives said they hadn’t heard from Rowe. Officers found the bodies of Rowe and her children. All four had been shot.

The initial finding by a medical examiner was that the killings likely happened 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 killings could have happened two or three weeks before the discovery of the bodies.

Taylor’s attorney, Kent Gipson, said that several people, including relatives of Rowe and a neighbor, saw Rowe alive in the days after Taylor left St. Louis. Meanwhile, Taylor’s daughter in California, Deja Taylor, claimed in a court filing that she and her father called Angela Rowe and one of the children during his visit. The court filing said Deja Taylor’s mother and sister corroborated her story.

Bob McCulloch, who was St. Louis County’s elected prosecutor at the time of the killings, said Taylor’s claim of innocence was “nonsense,” and the alibis provided by his daughter and her relatives were “completely made up.”

McCulloch told The Associated Press that evidence suggested Rowe and the kids were killed on the night of Nov. 22 or on Nov. 23, at a time when Taylor was still in St. Louis. He noted that Rowe typically made around 70 outgoing calls or texts each day. Starting Nov. 23, she made none.

Meanwhile, DNA from Rowe’s blood was found on Taylor’s glasses when he was arrested, a relative taking him to the airport saw Taylor toss a gun into the sewer, and Taylor’s brother told police that Taylor admitted to the crime, McCulloch said. Authorities believe Taylor shot Rowe during a violent argument, then killed the children because they were witnesses.

All three recent Missouri executions involved cases out of St. Louis County. Kevin Johnson was executed in November for killing a police officer in 2005. Amber McLaughlin was put to death Jan. 3 for killing a woman in 2003. It was believed to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the U.S.

Jim Salter, The Associated Press

Looking for World News? viewed on a mobile phone

Check out Village Report - the news that matters most to Canada, updated throughout the day.  Or, subscribe to Village Report's free daily newsletter: a compilation of the news you need to know, sent to your inbox at 6AM.