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Prosecutors will not intervene in case of MO man who claims innocence, set to be executed

Prosecutors in St. Louis County will not intervene in the case of a man who says he is innocent and whose execution date is next week.

Leonard Taylor is scheduled to die by lethal injection Feb. 7 at a prison in eastern Missouri. The 58-year-old was convicted in the 2004 quadruple murder of his girlfriend and her three children, but he argues he was halfway across the country when they were killed.

His attorneys had sent his case to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office for review of his innocence claims.

Prosecutor Wesley Bell said Monday that his office will not file a motion to vacate Taylor’s sentence.

“The facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence,” Bell said in a statement.

Kent Gipson, an attorney for Taylor, said they were disappointed, but not surprised.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a political actor and the death penalty, you come to expect this sort of thing,” said Gipson, a longtime lawyer on capital cases.

He said Taylor had been informed of Bell’s decision, but remains upbeat.

The prosecutor’s office said they will support a stay of execution so that the time of the victims’ deaths can be further investigated.

Gipson said they are preparing that motion for a stay and expect it to be filed Tuesday. The case would then be in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Last week, Taylor also submitted a clemency application to Gov. Mike Parson’s office.

Time of death

On Nov. 26, 2004, Taylor flew to California to meet one of his daughters for the first time.

Eight days later, the bodies of his girlfriend Angela Rowe and her children Alexus Conley, 10, Acqreya Conley, 6, and Tyrese Conley, 5, were found shot in their home in Jennings, near St. Louis.

The autopsies initially indicated the homicides had taken place two to three days before the bodies were found, which would have eliminated Taylor as the killer.

But at trial, St. Louis County medical examiner Phillip Burch told jurors that the temperature in the house had been in the 50s, which led to the estimated time of death changing. The murders could have taken place two to three weeks before the bodies were discovered — when Taylor would still have been in town.

In an affidavit signed Wednesday, less than two weeks before the execution date, forensic pathologist Jane Turner cast doubt on the medical examiner’s determination on the time of death. There was evidence of rigor mortis when the victims were discovered. That would not last more than a week after death even with the cold temperature in the house, according to Turner. Other postmortem changes that would occur a week or more after death were not present.

That meant the condition of the bodies suggested the victims were killed after Taylor left town.

In addition to Taylor’s alibi, his attorneys say police failed to investigate other suspects, including gang members who were after Taylor following a botched drug deal.