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FBI: Fugitive arrested nearly 40 years after Florida killing

William Claybourne Taylor was wanted in a 1977 slaying.
William Claybourne Taylor was wanted in a 1977 slaying.
Published Jul. 30, 2016

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A fugitive wanted on a murder charge has been arrested for his part in what authorities said was a plot to assassinate a north Florida mayor nearly 40 years ago.

William Claybourne Taylor, 67, was taken into custody Thursday in Reidsville, N.C., where he had been living under the assumed name of James Emmet Manion, the FBI said in a news release. Taylor attended a hearing Friday as Florida officials started the process of bringing him back to face charges. The FBI statement doesn't identify the victims, but a story published in 2013 in the Ocala Star-Banner identified the man killed in January 1977 as 64-year-old Walter H. Scott, of Archer, and the man wounded as former Williston Mayor Eugene T. Bailey, who was shot three times.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Taylor's head was down for much of his brief video appearance before Judge Pete Hunter. When Hunter advised him that he was in court because he was a fugitive, Taylor replied, "That's what the papers say."

Taylor is scheduled to appear in court again in North Carolina on Aug. 4.

An FBI wanted poster described Taylor, who was on the agency's Most Wanted list, as a dance instructor, trumpet player, convenience store clerk and welder. He might have been issued a U.S. passport in the name of Michael Cauley, according to the poster.

According to an account in the Gainesville Sun on the 36th anniversary of his disappearance, three years passed before Taylor, older brother Ray Taylor and another man were accused of scheming to assassinate the mayor and collect legal fees by representing his family.

Ray Taylor had moved to Tennessee and become a successful prosecutor, according to the paper, but was convicted in 1980 as chief planner in the plot.

According to reports, the third man, believed to be the driver of the car from which the shots were fired, testified against Ray Taylor in exchange for a manslaughter conviction and was sentenced to 15 years of probation.

William Taylor was indicted in 1980 on charges of murder and aggravated battery and arrested five days later in Chattanooga, Tenn., the FBI said. The agency said he never returned to Ocala after being released in Tennessee on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond. A federal arrest warrant was issued in August 1980 after Taylor was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

"William Claybourne Taylor thought he could avoid taking responsibility for this horrible crime, but our agents continued an exhaustive search year after year," said Michelle S. Klimt, special agent in charge of the FBI's Jacksonville Division.