LAURINBURG — Craig Taylor swears he killed his old sweetheart, and he's getting tired of trying to convince people he should be punished.
"They have a person locked up for a crime he never committed and let me get away with it?" Taylor asks. "I should be punished for it. If they don't want to do anything about it, I'm not going to worry about it no more."
Craig Taylor spoke to The News & Observer in his first media interview since he confessed to an 18-year-old Raleigh murder in August. Another man, Greg Taylor, has spent 16 years in prison for that crime.
Craig Taylor, 40, is in Scotland Correctional Institution near the South Carolina border, where he is serving a 10-year sentence as a habitual felon. He confessed to the 1991 Raleigh murder to an investigator with the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission; he offered never-disclosed details that experts say matched the crime scene.
The Innocence Inquiry Commission, an eight-member panel that includes lawyers, a sheriff, a judge and a victims' rights advocate, declared Greg Taylor, no kin to Craig, innocent in September. Craig Taylor's confession buoyed their decision.
In recent weeks, Craig Taylor's credibility has come under fire. In a court filing last week, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby portrayed Taylor as a liar whose mental illness and terminal disease are driving him to make false confessions. Willoughby pointed to Taylor's extensive history of admitting guilt for crimes he couldn't have committed.
Craig Taylor admits to some of Willoughby's accusations. He has fibbed more than once and stretched the truth other times. Taylor says prison therapists have told him he is crazy, but he doesn't think it's true. He is sick with AIDS.
"The lie's been told so much, for so long, when a truth is revealed you don't believe it because of what you already been told and heard," Taylor said. "Once again, some of the things, yep, I may have said things to cross the boundary."
Willoughby could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
On Monday, Taylor recanted two of the murders he had confessed to police in recent years. In one, the 2000 shooting death of Usama Husein, he says he lied to cover for a friend. In another, a letter he mailed to the television show Unsolved Mysteries in July to take blame for the death of a woman named "Veronica McGee," he says he invented this fictional woman for amusement. State and federal agents assumed he was confessing to the murder of a Northern Virginia woman named Veronica Jefferson, whose death has been linked through DNA to another man.
For the 65 other murders Taylor took credit for in his letter to Unsolved Mysteries, he says he was misunderstood. Taylor says he ordered hits or helped orchestrate dozens of slayings for the benefit of the "Shower Posse," a Jamaican drug organization that he says was responsible for gang violence in Miami and Washington, D.C., through the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A jealous rage
Craig Taylor is smug one moment and reflective the next. He's mournful when he talks of his battle with AIDS and the body aches that plague him. He laughs a little when bragging about men he says he ordered others to kill when they infringed on the turf where he peddled crack cocaine.
He's unwaveringly adamant about one thing: killing Jacquetta Thomas. He says the two were on-again, off-again lovers through the mid-to-late 1980s in Southeast Raleigh. He's convinced he cared more for her than she did for him. Jealousy ate at him when he saw her hop into a car with another man.
Craig Taylor says that jealousy overpowered him the night of Thomas' death. He saw her walking down the street and pulled his car over to offer her a lift. She was giddy, he says, likely high from crack he'd sold her that night. Something snapped, a blinding rage, he said.
He says he hit her over and over again. She escaped from his car. He says he chased her, this time brandishing a bat. He kept pummeling her until she dropped to the ground, motionless. He said he then stabbed her with a pocket knife. Then, for reasons he can't explain, he stripped her nearly naked to make police believe she'd been raped.
Deborah Radisch, a pathologist with the Office of the State Medical Examiner, determined that Thomas died of blunt force trauma. Last month, Radish testified at the commission hearing that a bat was a likely murder weapon. Thomas' chest and neck were dotted with superficial jabs; a pocket knife could have done that, Radisch testified. Thomas was not sexually assaulted, Radisch determined.
Raleigh police interviewed Craig Taylor the day Thomas' body was discovered, as they knew he was associated with her. Craig Taylor told police that he had seen Thomas that night. He was never questioned again.
Craig Taylor says he has spent nearly two decades trying to push memories of that night out of his mind.
"I just couldn't do it," Taylor said, furiously shaking his head. "I could never get my life together after that."
Craig Taylor has spent much of the last 20 years in prison. He is told that in December 2011 immigration and customs officers will deport him to his native Jamaica. His mother brought him to the United States when he was a boy, and he spent most of his life in Raleigh. He dreams of going back to Jamaica, reuniting with family and putting these dark years behind him.
Still, he says he is ready to accept the blame for a crime he committed at age 22 and face any consequences it might bring.
But he refuses to beg. Since he confessed to the commission investigator in August, Taylor says no law enforcement officer has been back to question him about Thomas' murder.
Raleigh police spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to the district attorney . .
A month ago, weeks after the commission declared Greg Taylor innocent, a pair of agents from the State Bureau of Investigation paid him a visit to inquire about the murder of "Veronica McGee," the woman he says he now invented. A week later, an FBI agent visited from Washington to press him further about McGee's murder.
None of the agents asked about Thomas. Both indicated they knew about his recent confession to Thomas' murder but did not ask him about it, Craig Taylor said.
Taylor said he has even appealed to Willoughby for punishment. Taylor says he wrote Willoughby a letter, telling him that he'd offer to take the death penalty as retribution for taking Thomas' life.
He said he wrote to Willoughby, saying, "I took something valuable away from [Jacquetta's family], so take something valuable away from my family, which is me."
Craig Taylor explains: "An eye for an eye, know what I'm saying?"
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