The same judge who found John Albert Taylor guilty Tuesday of first-degree murder in the strangulation of an 11-year-old Washington Terrace girl, must now decide if he will die for the crime.
Judge David Roth took about 90 minutes Tuesday to decide that Taylor, 30, had sexually assaulted Charla King and then murdered her by wrapping a telephone cord tightly around the young girl's neck.The Ogden man will return to court after the judge decide's if he should be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty. Attorneys planned to meet Wednesday to discuss the timing of the penalty phase of the trial.
Under Utah law, a capital murder conviction is automatically appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.
The victim's mother, Sharon King, found the nude body of her daughter on June 23 in their Washington Terrace apartment. A pair of panties had been stuffed in Charla's mouth and a telephone cord was found tied around her neck. Taylor lived in the same apartment complex as the Kings.
King cried when the verdict was read, and she had to be helped out of the courtroom by court personnel. Outside she told reporters that she was happy Taylor was convicted because he'd never be able to harm another child.
"I put my faith in God," she said.
Weber County Attorney Reed Richards said he thought the verdict was "appropriate," and that he would "absolutely" seek the death penalty against Taylor.
It's been 40 years since a Weber County jury or judge has sentenced someone to death.
Defense attorney Don Redd said he escorted the defendant back to jail following the verdict, and the only thing Taylor told him was that he was going to call his father and give him the news.
"His (Taylor's) voice was broken. He was obviously crushed," Redd said. "It's an emotional thing. The defendant feels really bad."
Taylor has denied since his arrest on June 28 that he hurt the young girl. He did admit to being alone in the apartment the day the victim was slain, but only to commit a burglary.
Taylor's fingerprints were found on the bottom of the telephone. The same phone's cord was used to strangle the girl.
In reaching his decision, Roth said that Taylor's explanation as to how his fingerprints got on the telephone was both "unreasonable and unbelievable."
"But for fingerprints on the phone, there would be no case," Roth said. "Defendant's prints were found in no other place."
The judge also said that the state had proven its capital murder case by showing that the murder was done "knowingly and intentionally," and that King had been sexually assaulted.
In closing arguments, Richards said that Taylor had been out of work for six months and that he had gotten a full-time job just hours before the murder.
"He was so happy that he went out and committed a burglary," Richards said.
The prosecutor also pointed out that Taylor just happened to pick out an apartment to burglarize where a little girl was later found murdered.
"That's almost incredible," he said. "I submit it's not a burglar who goes inside without gloves . . . it's a sex abuser."
Richards also said that Taylor went inside his sister's apartment when King's body was being moved because he was afraid the young girl might still be alive and point him out as her attacker.
The worst tragedy about the murder, Richards said, was that King was killed in her own home, the one place where a child should feel safe.
In a brief closing argument, Redd said that the only piece of evidence the state had against Taylor was the fingerprints, and that the fingerprints could have been left by a burglar.
"The prints do show for certainty that Taylor was there," Redd said. "But there's reasonable doubt that he is the murderer."