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Father decapitated two children, forced other kids to view bodies over five days, prosecutors allege

Yellow crime scene tape stretched across a residential street
Firefighters responding to a call of a possible gas leak at a Lancaster home last week found the bodies of two children inside.
(Matthew Ormseth / Los Angeles Times)

The horror inside the beige Lancaster home began to unfold the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Maurice Jewel Taylor Sr., 34, decapitated his son and daughter, authorities allege. Then, for the next five days, he kept the bodies of 12-year-old Maurice Jr. and 13-year-old Maliaka inside the house, along with his two younger sons, ages 8 and 9.

During this period, prosecutors allege in court papers filed Tuesday, the personal trainer showed the dead bodies to the surviving children, who were kept in their rooms without food.

It wasn’t until Friday that a call about a possible gas leak brought firefighters to the gruesome scene inside the house on Century Circle.

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Taylor’s clients, who had been taking Zoom classes with him, had called authorities after he stopped communicating with them.

A personal trainer described as “mellow” and “reliable” was arrested Friday in connection with the deaths of his two adolescent children, who were found decapitated in the family home in Lancaster, authorities said.

The children’s mother, who was in the house, is not a suspect but has been questioned by investigators and is still in contact with them, said Lt. Brandon Dean of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau. Dean said deputies found the children’s bodies in separate bedrooms in the home.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Taylor with two counts each of murder and child abuse. During his arrest Friday, Taylor was handcuffed and taken away on a stretcher to an ambulance, escorted by deputies.

A map of Lancaster with a pointer label that reads Two found decapitated in Lancaster home
Personal-training clients of Maurice Jewel Taylor Sr. called authorities to check on the family home in the 45000 block of Century Circle on Friday morning after they hadn’t heard from him.
(Los Angeles Times)

Taylor becomes the first high-profile murder defendant for newly elected Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who has pledged not to seek the death penalty in any new cases.

His arraignment has been postponed until Dec. 21. He remains in jail in lieu of a $4.2-million bond and faces a maximum sentence of 57 years to life in prison.

Dist. Atty. George Gascón announces sweeping policy changes for cash bail in L.A. County and bans seeking sentencing enhancements in nearly all cases.

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services does not appear to have had any involvement with the family, and deputies had not recently been called to the home, Dean said.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said it was his understanding that the family had one minor contact with authorities years ago but nothing to suggest the brutal nature of the crime.

Taylor’s clients, with whom he had worked at a Santa Monica physical therapy and fitness center, became concerned after he did not send out a Zoom link for a scheduled session and could not be reached. They were worried that a gas leak had occurred at the home and asked authorities to check on the family.

“I knew they weren’t out of town. They didn’t have money to travel,” one client said.

Howard Kern, an attorney and writer who trained with Taylor for about seven years, said he called the L.A. County Fire Department at 7:34 a.m. Friday, after other clients had called the Sheriff’s Department to relay their worries.

“I said, ‘I’m concerned,’” Kern recalled. “‘We are concerned about a possible gas leak. There are four children and two adults — and we are concerned about their safety.’”

Another client, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Taylor had been working remotely because of the pandemic. He was “so reliable, so responsive” and “mellow,” the client said.


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