The choice of life or death for Von L. Taylor was presented to seven man and five women, who began deliberating his fate Wednesday.
For the first time since the slayings Dec. 22, the killer took the stand late Tuesday to tell his side of the story. But his testimony provided few, if any, answers or explanations."Do you have any explanation for us why the murders occurred?" asked Terry Christiansen, deputy Summit County attorney.
"No," Taylor replied. "I'm sorry it happened. If I could change it I would."
Taylor said he knows that he is either going to spend the rest of his life in prison or will be put to death for the murders.
"The death penalty to me would be the easiest way out - the quickest," he said. "The day I get out of prison is when they carry me out in a box."
Taylor admitted that he and co-defendant Edward S. Deli broke into Rolf Tiede's cabin near Oakley, Summit County, the night before the murders. But he said he had no intention of stealing anything and denied previous testimony that he was waiting for the family to show up and kill them.
"Were you there just to find a place to sleep?" Christiansen asked.
"Basically," he replied.
Taylor repeatedly answered, "I don't know" to myriad questions the prosecution asked him. He denied having any memory about the shootings of Beth Potts, Kay Tiede or Rolf Tiede.
He said he did remember seeing the two women come into the cabin along with Linae Tiede and remembers pointing a gun at the women. But he does not recall them asking him what he wanted and offering him money and anything else he needed.
"I don't deny it. I just don't remember the shooting happening," he said. "It happened so quick. I don't know. There was so much noise and confusion."
"Who was causing that noise and confusion?" asked Christiansen.
"It could have been me. It could have been anybody," Taylor said.
In Tuesday's testimony, jurors heard statements from a prison inmate who said Taylor called him from the cabin two hours before the shootings occurred. He said Taylor told him that he and a friend (Deli) had broken into the cabin and were going to wait for the family to show up, kill them and then take their car.
"He told me he was going to waste them all," Scott Manley told a sheriff's detective during a taped interview.
Taylor denied that he and Deli had such a plan to kill and steal. "That's what happened, but it wasn't planned," he said. He offered no explanation, however, about why the two were still in the cabin when the family returned.
Taylor also said he remembered later pointing his gun at Rolf Tiede when he and his 16-year-old daughter arrived at the cabin. He said he doesn't remember shooting him or anyone pouring gasoline over Tiede but does remember him falling to the ground.
"Do you have these convenient memory lapses often?" Christiansen asked.
"When I'm in a state of shock, yeah," Taylor replied.
When asked why he didn't shoot the two daughters, Linae and Tricia Tiede, Taylor said he could not answer because it would endanger his life. "I know my life's (already) in jeopardy, but I'm not going to be tagged as a (jailhouse) snitch," he said.
Taylor said he and Deli made a pact that they would kill each other if they ever got into trouble with law enforcement. As officers surrounded their vehicle following a chase, Taylor pointed a gun at Deli and said, "It's time for us to die." But Deli yelled, "No!" and grabbed the gun from his hands.
Witnesses testified that Taylor had served a 11/2-year prison sentence for aggravated burglary after he was caught burglarizing his next-door neighbor's home in Washington, Washington County. The owner, in his 70s, wrestled a gun away from Taylor and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.
Taylor's father, Thomas Taylor, testified it was his gun that his son used in the aggravated burglary. "I'm one of those that believes in the right to have guns," he said. "We've always had guns in our house."
Thomas Taylor described his son - the youngest of eight children - as "a quiet, loving individual" that liked to be left alone but otherwise gave the family little trouble. Von Taylor teared up and was visibly shaken during his father's testimony.
"Von was always honest with us," he said. "We knew that morning (Dec. 23) that he was guilty because he told us."
Thomas Taylor said neither he nor his wife is prepared for their son to receive a life-in-prison or death sentence. "Life is a valuable commodity. I'm not sure one (penalty) is any worse than the other," he said. "We all must die at one point."
Christiansen later quoted Taylor's father and asked Taylor about the deaths of Beth Potts and Kaye Tiede. "Did you consider (their lives) to be a `valuable commodity' on Dec. 22?"
Taylor replied, "I don't know. . . . I do now."