Fugitive Wants 20 Years--Anywhere but O.C. Jail

Times Staff Writer

A prolific jewel thief and Orange County Jail escapee said Tuesday that he is willing to serve a long prison sentence in Illinois or Iowa but will fight extradition to Orange County because he fears he will never get out alive.

“I ask Orange County not to kill me when I get there,” said Michael Douglas Taylor. “I’m just a burglar. . . . All I really want to do in my life is 20 . . . years . . . then I won’t do any more robberies. Why do they (in Orange County) want to give me 100 years, when I never killed nobody? No, I ain’t sticking around.”

In separate jailhouse interviews Tuesday, Taylor and Raymond E. Williams, who was arrested with him, talked about how they traveled the United States committing robberies, how Taylor had unearthed thousands of dollars from his own front yard in Seattle and went to Chicago to pick up his girlfriend, and about his plans to flee to property he says he has in Brazil.


Taylor, captured here last weekend, appeared in state court on an Orange County warrant Tuesday. But because he does not yet have an attorney, he was not asked if he plans to waive or fight extradition to California. Bond was set at $1.75 million, pending another hearing Thursday.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Burl Estes said Tuesday that he expects Taylor to fight extradition, a process that could take 4 to 6 weeks. Taylor was awaiting trial on several robberies in Orange County when he escaped.

Estes said that Orange County is first in line to get Taylor at the moment, although that could change depending on what prosecutors from various states who also want to extradite him agree among themselves.

Taylor has been held under maximum security at the jail here since he was arrested at a pawnshop Saturday trying to sell 58 stolen diamonds. He is not allowed to have visitors during normal hours, and his wrists and ankles are shackled whenever he is taken out of his cell.

Taylor, 36, said he broke out of Orange County Jail last Nov. 20 because conditions there had made him ill, causing his weight to drop from 160 to 117 pounds.

A warrant issued in Orange County for Taylor’s arrest the day after the escape lists his weight at 115 pounds. He is 5 feet, 9 inches tall.


“I was dying there, I was sick all the time,” he said. “The food is nasty in there, and the hypes are always bringing in germs. . . . I’m really susceptible. . . . And the guards kicked your ass for nothing. I called the ACLU, and word got out that I saw a beating.”

Taylor and four other inmates escaped by cutting through a wire fence on the jail’s rooftop recreation area and then rappelling down the side of the building using a rope made from sheets.

The escape “was nothing to me, it wasn’t that hard at all,” he said. He denied, however, that he was the mastermind behind it, as authorities claimed.

“We all had ideas,” he said.

Taylor admitted doing a number of robberies since his escape, including two recent heists in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and West Des Moines, Iowa.

But he was about to end his criminal career and flee to Brazil, where he said he owns land “as far as the eye can see,” he said. “I was doing my last piece of work, then I was going down,” he said. He did not say where his final robbery was going to be.

When authorities searched Taylor’s home on Vashon Island in Washington state last year, they found literature on travel to Brazil, according to court documents.


Taylor rambled at times during the half-hour interview, saying that the U.S. government was out to kill him because of work he did on behalf of inmates in Cook County, Ill., a few years ago.

“This is way over our heads, both yours and mine,” he said.

Taylor denied participating in a rape in Albany, Calif., last January but admitted that he was with the woman and his partner, Richard Wayne Gettick, who is currently in prison in Florida.

“I didn’t rape that woman,” he said. “I was out of the (motel) room for 45 minutes--I couldn’t take it.”

The woman identified Taylor and Gettick as the two men who first posed as car buyers and then kidnaped, raped and tried to kill her before she escaped, Albany police said.

Taylor said that after escaping from jail, he traveled to Denver, where he “did a business.” Authorities say that Taylor and two other escapees, Richard Fluharty and Steven Wilson, robbed a B. Dalton bookstore there.

(Denver police said Tuesday that Taylor is not a suspect in a string of shoe-store robberies in their city. Other authorities had said earlier that he may be a suspect in those crimes.)


Some time after leaving Denver, Taylor went to Chicago and contacted his girlfriend, Lisa Marie Prindes.

“I threatened to kill her if she and the kids didn’t come with me,” he said. “I had to rough her up quite a bit to get her to come. . . . I love her. She’s got to be with me.”

Taylor and Prindes have a 2-year-old daughter, and Prindes has a 4-year-old son by another man. Both children, who were traveling with the couple when they were arrested here, are in state custody. State Department of Social Services officials said Tuesday that Prindes’ parents, who live in Illinois, have “expressed interest” in coming to claim the children.

Prindes eventually flew to Las Vegas and joined Taylor, who in the meantime had gone to the Seattle area and dug up thousands of dollars he had buried in front of his house, he said. Authorities searched his house last year but did not find the money.

Taylor said he used that money to rent a condominium in Portland, Me., where he, Prindes and the two children lived until he read in a television listing that he was to be featured on the program “America’s Most Wanted” on April 9.

Prindes, 25, never participated in any of Taylor’s robberies, Taylor said. “I don’t make my business her business,” he said. “She never did nothing.”


Prindes is held in jail here on $5,000 bond on a charge of receiving stolen property. But the U.S. attorney’s office in Des Moines, Iowa, filed a complaint Tuesday against Prindes, Taylor and Raymond E. Williams, who was traveling with the couple, charging them with a jewelry store robbery in West Des Moines on May 19. Prindes admitted to police that she knew the robbery was going to occur and that jewelry found in her purse was from that crime, according to the complaint.

Williams, 22, said he was living in the Salvation Army shelter in Buffalo, N.Y., last month when a friend introduced him to Taylor.

“He offered me a job,” Williams said during an interview at Pennington County Jail. “He didn’t say what kind right then.”

Williams grabbed his belongings and followed Taylor out to his van, where he quickly found out what kind:

“He said he robbed diamond stores,” said Williams, a native of Glens Falls, N.Y. “I said, ‘Hey, why not?’ ”

From Buffalo, the trio--plus the two children, a cat and a golden retriever Taylor named “Sloan,” one of his former aliases--traveled to Philadelphia, where they fenced some jewels, and then on to Chicago, where they did a “small job” at a jewelry store, Williams said.


“It was like clockwork,” he said. “I would go in, scope the place out, and if it looked good, we’d do it.”

Williams said both men were armed with .357 magnum handguns and that he sometimes carried a shotgun too.

From Chicago, the trio drove back to Saratoga Springs, where Williams said he and Taylor robbed another store, and headed to Tennessee.

“We just lived it up,” Williams said. “We drove around, went and looked at Elvis’ house.”

Williams said that Taylor and Prindes often fought and that Taylor beat his wife badly enough to leave her bruised.

“She was always complaining about money, or the weather, or the traveling, or the dog and the cat,” he said.

From Tennessee, the group traveled to Des Moines, where they robbed a jewelry store and shoe store, and then headed west, he said.


“We planned on going to Las Vegas,” he said. “We got to Rapid City, and we figured we’d sell some diamonds.”

But Taylor--who says he has fenced stolen jewels in big cities such as New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco--did not count on running into Darcy Knight, manager of the Fair Deal Pawn and Gun Shop.

Instead of buying Taylor’s diamonds, Knight called police, who were able to identify Taylor through the National Crime Information Center computer.

“Jewelers are greedy people, they always buy,” Taylor said. “I’ve never, ever experienced a guy like that. . . . He couldn’t see a dollar ahead of a dollar.”

Taylor said he has been committing robberies since he was 14, growing up in Chicago.

“I’m just a burglar. That’s all I am,” he said.