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Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

Robert Butler III, 52, bottom, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death investigation of 22-year-old Taylor McAllister, whose body was found abandoned in a St. Petersburg alley last year. Butler III is the son of Robert Butler Jr., the late founder of BobÃ\u0095s Carpet and Flooring. [Courtesy McAllister family and St. Petersburg Police Department]
Robert Butler III, 52, bottom, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death investigation of 22-year-old Taylor McAllister, whose body was found abandoned in a St. Petersburg alley last year. Butler III is the son of Robert Butler Jr., the late founder of BobÃ\u0095s Carpet and Flooring. [Courtesy McAllister family and St. Petersburg Police Department]
Published Dec. 14, 2017

An heir to a local flooring company charged with failing to report the death of a young woman last year has a troubled criminal history and was a source of strife in his family business, according to court records.

Robert Butler III, 52, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death investigation of 22-year-old Taylor McAllister, whose body was found abandoned in a St. Petersburg alley last year.

He is the son of Robert Butler Jr., the late founder of Bob's Carpet and Flooring. Robert Butler III could not be reached for comment Thursday.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: St. Petersburg police arrest Bob's Carpet and Flooring heir, several others, in death of 22-year-old woman found in alley

Detectives said McAllister was last seen alive at Butler's home on Woodridge Parkway in Palm Harbor. Two "associates" of Butler picked her up, thinking she was "barely conscious," according to police. The men later figured out she had died, investigators said, and disposed of her body.

Police still have not released a cause of death for McAllister.

Bob's Carpet and Flooring issued a statement Thursday saying the founder's son has not been involved in business operations for three years.

"The executive staff of Bob's Carpet Mart and Flooring expresses condolences to the family of Taylor Ann McAllister," the company said in the statement, which was released through a lawyer.

Court filings from 2015 show that Robert Butler III and his two sisters benefit from family trusts but have wrestled over control of their father's business, which opened in 1969 and now includes more than a dozen stores in west Florida. Even before their father's death in late 2016, the siblings traded allegations of drug abuse and misuse of company funds.

In a 2015 civil case, one sister, Lori Smith, accused her brother of hurting the business, selling company products solely for personal profit; using company funds for personal expenses like "excessive" alcohol consumption; and being a bad company representative, including the time he was banned from a trade organization convention in Hawaii for "egregious" behavior.

In a separate filing at the time, their father, Robert Butler Jr., expressed dismay that his heirs were squabbling over the business he built.

"(Butler Jr.) loves all of his children. He appreciates the strengths and abilities of each of them," lawyers wrote on his behalf. "He is well aware of the foibles and weaknesses of each child, as well."

The father worried that "family tensions" were "putting strain on the business." Court records show the chain is financially healthy today.

Robert Butler III was listed as a company vice president in state corporate records as recently as last year. But a lawyer for the business, Stratton Smith, said he was merely listed on paperwork and not involved in day-to-day operations. Smith declined to comment on the criminal case.

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The latest state filing lists Ashlie Butler, the daughter of Robert Butler III, as the leader of Bob's Carpet and Flooring.

Butler started having legal troubles in the early 1990s, when he was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm, according to his state criminal record. Over the last two decades, he picked up more arrests, including multiple charges of drug possession.

McAllister's parents said Wednesday that she was living with Butler in Palm Harbor before her death. A mother of two, she struggled with a pill addiction, and friends believed the older man was acting as a "sugar daddy," supplying her with drugs and money, according to her father, Bill McAllister.

He wondered why Butler would not have called 911 if something happened to her.

Instead, according to arrest reports, two men — 35-year-old Deonte Baker, a self-professed drug dealer, and Quran Archer, 25 — picked McAllister up. When they realized she was dead, investigators said, the men tried to return to Butler's home. He did not let them, police said. They dumped her body in an alley off 63rd Avenue S in St. Petersburg. She was found on Dec. 22, 2016.

Both men also face charges of failing to report a death, a misdemeanor, though Archer has not been taken into custody. Butler faces additional charges of being a felon in possession of ammunition and felony possession of marijuana.

Baker and two other associates are separately accused of money laundering.

The investigation is ongoing. Police said more charges could be filed.

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Zachary T. Sampson at zsampson@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804. Follow @ZackSampson.

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