Filing charges in cold case proved difficult

WTHI Photo, Jon Swaner
WTHI Photo, Jon Swaner

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – How criminal codes are shaped can impact cases for years to come.  A perfect example of this is the arrest of Earl Taylor.  He’s charged with murdering his first wife, Kathy, back in 1975.  Simply filing charges in this case was challenging.

As if investigating cold case murders are hard enough.

When detectives got their man, they took their case to the prosecutor’s office to get charges filed.  What we learned, though, is Prosecutor Terry Modesitt couldn’t simply slap a murder charge on him.  A lot of research went into this case, and research will still be done even as Earl Taylor sits in the Vigo County Jail awaiting trial.

Earl Taylor is charged with murdering his wife, Kathy, back on April 2, 1975.  And because the alleged crime happened in 1975, the laws of Indiana at that time must be applied.

“You have to actually use those statutes in determining the charges, and in the charging information,” said Modesitt.

You would think in this day and age of the internet, finding the old 1975 version of Indiana’s murder law would be pretty easy.  Think again.  A search of “Indiana 1975 murder law” will bring you a lot of old very old cases, but not any laws from back in those days.  We should point out that you can easily find the entire Indiana code on-line.  But because the 1975 code is not on-line, Modesitt had to turn to legal experts in the state.  Surprisingly, his initial searches turned up empty.

Said Modesitt, “We checked at the courthouse, couldn’t find anything.  I called the Indiana Prosecutors Council.  They didn’t have anything.  I talked to the Sheriff.  He also had a call in to the Indiana Sheriff’s Association to see if they could find anything.  Then, we sent someone from our office to the law school in Indianapolis, IU Law School, they didn’t have it.”

This legal red tape delayed the filing of these charges.  An email from Indiana University in Bloomington, though, cut through that tape, and gave the prosecutor’s office the charging information they needed to get charges filed against Earl Taylor.

“We are confident,” Modesitt concluded.  “We found the exact statute and it shows the dates it was in effect.”

The prosecutor’s office is not the only ones researching the Indiana Code of 1975.  At Taylor’s initial hearing, Judge John Roach indicated that he is researching what Taylor’s possible penalties are, as he must also be sentenced according to the guidelines that existed in 1975.  Judge Roach told Taylor right now, there are two possibilities if Taylor is convicted.  One, he could receive a sentence between 45 to 65 years, or he could receive life in prison.  Everyone has some time to do their research.  Taylor’s trial is set for December 8th. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you confirm your email address and acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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