What happened

Growing up with my maternal grandmother it was quickly understood that asking questions about my mom resulted in a brief beginning of an answer followed by extended periods of tears. As such, I didn’t ask a whole lot of questions, so the answers were few and far between. Seems like even today I get information that I never knew about.

The story of how my parents met, what they were like, and who they knew, is somewhat blurred as I never really knew either of them. Mom was born on November 25th, 1945 – exactly one month before Christmas. I know that dad moved here from southeastern Ohio late in his Junior year, 1962. They met in high school and began dating. All I really have to go on are a few pictures, including a couple of ‘candids’ taken early in their dating. They were actually from one of those photo machines you sit in, pay whatever price (probably a quarter back then), and get 4 pictures. They seemed really happy in those old black and white’s. Mom wearing her Southeastern High School sweatshirt covered slightly by dad’s class ring on a chain around her neck and dad with a polyester button down. I never thought that he’d be back in fashion with something like that.

At any rate, she and dad began dating shortly after he moved to South Charleston, a good 6 miles from where mom grew up. Even so, he would walk back and forth to her house almost daily during their courtship. They graduated together in 1963 - exactly 20 years before I would graduate from that same high school. They were one of three couples in that graduating class that would eventually marry. Mom and dad did so in 1964.

I was born in April of 1965 and would spend 18 months with my parents.

Mom and dad had moved into a small 2 bedroom house at 415 Ludlow Avenue, just inside the city limits of Springfield, Ohio. Eventually, mom decided that it was going to be necessary for her to get a job of her own so that they could begin to save for a home instead of renting. She applied at Springfield Public Finance, along with 9 or so other women, some of which she new from high school. She was definitely not the most qualified person for the position. There were other girls there with considerably more experience than she, and although severely overshadowed by the other applicants’ resumes, she was given the job. She was very happy to have acquired the work but couldn’t understand how she was selected over much more qualified candidates. The person that hired her, Mr. Elsworth Miller, would be her supervisor.

Rumor has it that shortly after mom started with Springfield Finance she noticed that her supervisor would follow her home each night to ‘make sure she got home O.K.’. She had mentioned this behavior to her mother on a number of occasions.

On the night of October 28th, 1966 Mom had come home from work and began doing laundry with me right there with her as was normally the case. Although I was there, I really can’t remember the night. I underwent hypnotherapy in the late 80’s to attempt to do so, but was unsuccessful.

Sometime during the evening hours someone came to our home. No one knows who - or maybe someone does and I just haven’t found that person yet. There was no forced entry into the home, but the doors were not as solid and impenetrable as you would hope. They could actually be ‘forced’ open if needed. Mom was very timid about living in ‘the city’ and was careful to lock the house as best she could even when she was at home.

What chain of events transpired that evening is still a mystery, but what is known is that my father came home late that evening (just past midnight) after working his normal shift. He was dropped off by 2 coworkers and made his way up the front steps to the house on Ludlow Avenue. He knocked on the door but there was no answer. After a couple of attempts he thought he heard moaning and forced open the door. What he found was, according to some very tenured members of the Springfield Police Department at that time, one of the most gruesome crime scenes they had the misfortune of being a part of. Mom had been raped and severely beaten and lie in a puddle of her own blood on the floor of their bedroom, barely breathing. Her throat had been crushed by what appeared to be the foot of the assailant to the point where she was slowly drowning in her own blood. She attempted to say something to my dad but apparently the words were not discernible with the blood that was now occupying her airway. I was found in my crib, but had been placed there only after being severely beaten and left for dead. My left leg had been shattered and I was one massive bruise.

Dad ran out of the house and down the street to try and get help at a local tavern. An ambulance was summoned and arrived at the home a short time later. Anita Taylor was pronounced Dead on Arrival to Community Hospital on, officially, October 29th, 1966. She was 20 years old. I’m told that I was in the ambulance also and all that I could do was cry for my mom. She would never answer. That may have been the last thing that she heard.

As I look back upon that scenario, I can only assume that I was used as a ‘bargaining chip’ by the murderer. That he had begun to beat me, and mom eventually gave in and said, “Do whatever you want to me, just leave my son alone.” I was found in my crib. Someone put me there after beating the hell out of me. It’s still difficult to listen to my grandmother tell stories about what she remembers of that night. The fact that when she got to the hospital, the entire place was full of police and reporters, and that she still didn’t know what had happened and that mom was already dead. My grandfather had answered the call from the hospital and didn’t know how to tell my grandmother. She says she can remember seeing my badly beaten body crying ‘Mommy!’ and asked a nurse if she could see Anita. It sounds a little harsh, but grandma always says the nurse just came back with ‘Oh no. Didn’t you know? She’s gone…’ “I went down to floor when I heard that” she always says - her way of saying that she had passed out. She says that when she first saw me she thought I was ‘a little black baby’ from the bruises that I had already sustained. “You were completely covered in bruises! How could someone do that to a little baby!” I spent a month in traction there, with my left leg in the air. I’d heard that the doctors thought my chances of walking unimpaired were slim, and I’d have a limp if I were ever able to do so. They were wrong.

After spending that time at the hospital I came home to live with my father. He had since moved in with my mom’s mom and dad. Grandma had gone through major bouts of depression eating very little and sleeping even less. Dad’s relationship with his own parents had been less than storybook and he opted to live with his in-laws. Eventually, he had a dispute with my grandmother that stemmed from her correcting me. When she intervened to set me straight, dad reacted angrily and left the house, taking me with him. He ended up moving me to stay with his mom who came back to the same area to help out.

Over time, dad realized that he couldn’t be there for me all of the time and that his mom was not the type of person that he wanted me around - or so the story goes. He brought me back and asked that my grandmother and grandfather look after me. They agreed under the guise that they would be given the opportunity to raise me as they saw fit, and that dad wouldn’t come again and tear me away once more. My grandmother’s mental state at that time probably wouldn’t have been able to endure another such trauma. He conceded and there I was.

When I arrived at my new old home for the final time, Grandma was in no shape to care of a small child. My mother’s sister, Edith, had been staying with us to try and help get things back to normal. She had a child of her own, Cindy, who was only a year old at the time and a husband, Brooks, who was back at their home in Hamilton awaiting their return. Eventually, she told Grandma that she had to get back to her own life and family and that it was now ‘up to you to raise Aaron the way Anita would have wanted’. My entire family says that was when I saved my Grandmother and she saved me. Had it not been for me, Grandma was headed for serious problems concerning her general health from lack of proper nourishment as well as her mental health from the experience that she had been through. Had it not been for her, my life would probably have never turned out as ‘normally’ as it did.

She brought me up in a home that was full of memories of my mom. Nearly every room of that house had at least one picture of mom. The whole house was like some shrine to the memory of my mother, her baby daughter. Whenever we would come home after dark, she would point to the sky and say, “Aaron, do you see that bright star up there? That’s your mom and she’s leading us home.” She also endured a lot of difficult questions that only children can ask. I can still remember asking, “Grandma, are there phones in heaven?” “Why?” she said. “Because I want to call my mommy.” She still has a gradeschool paper I wrote about my family on old tattered construction paper. I nonchalantly explained how mom was dead and that I lived with my Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Vikki. The depth of my grandmother’s caring nature will never cease to amaze me. And her continual question of who killed her daughter has affected me my entire life.

I never saw dad much after that. Maybe twice a year - usually at Christmas and on my birthday. Sometimes not even then. He remarried a very sweet woman from Springfield, and eventually moved to Urbana, a suburb of Springfield - only 15 miles away from me - but he might as well have been in another country. He never called, would make plans to visit and then cancel, and generally removed me from his life, at least as far as it mattered to me. And he was my hero. That made it hurt even more.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t content with where I was. I loved my grandmother and grandfather dearly. They had done so much for me in so many aspects that I could never even put it into words. I was surrounded by friends in school. I even ended up being best friends with a son of one of dad’s good friends during his own school years. We’re still close to this day.

Dad went on to have 2 more sons in this family, Michael and Jared. His new life - and family picture - didn’t include me.

When I got older I started to wonder about a lot of things. Especially about mom and what life was like with her. I never knew her and I guess I wanted to try to understand what their relationship was like. When I was 12, dad and I talked about mom for the first time ever. It was Christmas Eve 1977, and he and I were in his garage looking at an old muscle car he had built. Virtually out of nowhere he turned to me and said, “You know I loved your mother, don’t you?” I was stunned for a moment and all I could get out was “Yeah.” He continued with “A lot of people thought that I killed your mom.” “I know”, I replied. “I could have never done that to your mom. I loved her with all my heart.” When he turned to look at me he was crying. I couldn’t say anything else as I was getting pretty emotional also, mostly because I was seeing my dad cry for the first time. There were so many questions that I wish that I would have asked, but they just wouldn’t come out.

On April 27th of the following year I celebrated my 13th birthday - officially a teenager. I was looking forward to seeing dad again, but my birthday came and went with no call from dad. On the morning of Saturday the 29th my Aunt Edith showed up unannounced from Hamilton. Since it was unannounced to me, I found it a bit odd, but she was there for a reason. She had brought me an Egg McMuffin because she knew that I loved them, and asked me to accompany her to the family room – rarely used – and ironically had a huge picture of mom over the couch where I was sitting. She sat next to me. No one else was in the room. After a couple of minutes she just turned to me and said matter-of-factly, “Aaron, I have some bad news for you.” At that age ‘bad news’ was nothing as monumental as I was about to hear. I thought, “Oh, it’s probably that a recent vacation had been postponed or canceled. No big deal.” “Your father was killed this morning in a motorcycle crash. I’m sorry.” That was it. Exactly 11 and a half years to the day after mom, dad was dead as well.

That pretty much brings us up to date. Life went on for myself but over the years I kept asking more and more questions about mom’s murder. Eventually I stumbled across a collection of newspaper clippings that my grandmother had saved, hidden in an old cedar chest. I even went to the police station when I turned 16 to try and get additional information, but the Police Department wouldn’t let me see the evidence – officially the case was still open and there is no statute of limitations for murder in the state of Ohio. Regardless, I began to compile as much information as I could regarding mom’s murder.

We know that between 7:30 pm on October 28th and 1:30 am on October 29th, 1966 the assailant entered the home. There was no sign of forced entry. Mom was found on the bedroom floor of our home still alive but barely breathing. The weapons used in the attack were most likely a pop bottle and the hands and feet of the assailant. Mom’s throat had been crushed by what was assumed to be the attacker’s foot. A bloody footprint was found at the scene of relatively small size – around an 8½ or 9. The back door to the house was standing open when police arrived. A partial fingerprint was found on a light bulb on the back porch – possibly from unscrewing the light to mask an escape. Other unidentified prints were also compiled. 27 packages of evidence were taken from the house and forwarded to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and have remained there. Until recently. DNA evidence was recovered and has undergone preliminary testing. The quality of the cataloging of the evidence was quite remarkable for 1966 standards. At that time there was no inclination of the technological advances that would be available some 30 years in the future. Results have been received clearing my father as the assailant. Further testing is still being performed.

This effort of compiling information seemed to take on a new energy when I was contacted in March of 1996. It was at that time that I was called by a brother I never knew I had. He was only nine months younger than I, meaning that while mom and dad were married, he was having an affair. My brother and I had actually attended rival high schools and played sports against each other never knowing the truth – he didn’t find out the truth until he was 18 years old. By then our dad had been dead for 5 years. He never even got to meet him.

We talked a lot then and continue to do so to this day. His stories about what he knew of the events in 1966 have fueled the fire to getting to the bottom of mom’s murder. Names popped up here and there. Pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, while even more questions come up.

Thankfully we have received assistance from the Springfield Police Department and local news agencies in revisiting the information and reviewing the evidence from the case. With their help – and hopefully yours – we can bring this case to a close.

—Aaron Taylor