A Huntington Beach man from a storied surfing family will face trial on charges that he tried to arrange the murder of his former sister-in-law for $12,000, an Orange County judge ruled Tuesday.
Joseph Jordan Taylor, 30, could face life in prison if convicted on charges of attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder.
Testifying at a preliminary hearing Tuesday at the Westminster courthouse, Huntington Beach Police Det. Trent Tunstall said that one of Taylor's friends approached authorities in May 2015 to report that Taylor had given him $5,000 to arrange the murder of his former sister-in-law.
As police surreptitiously recorded their conversation, Tunstall said, two undercover Huntington Beach detectives posing as potential hit men met with Taylor in the parking lot at the Westminster Mall soon after.
Taylor said the target was "his brother's ex," and that she should be killed at her home after she dropped her kids off at school, Tunstall testified.
Taylor specified that it should be done before an upcoming custody hearing about the kids, according to Tunstall, and "that it should look like a robbery gone bad."
"He said he never wanted to see her again," Tunstall told the court. "He suggested he wanted her hurt really bad."
Taylor agreed to pay $12,000 for the hit and was arrested later that day after he gave the undercover officers a $2,000 cash down payment, according to Tunstall.
Orange County Superior Court Judge William Monroe ruled that there was enough evidence for Taylor to stand trial on both counts.
Defense attorney Doug Myers asked the judge to reduce Taylor's bail from $3 million to $1 million. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jess Rodriguez argued Taylor is a flight risk who had previously fled to Mexico to avoid the law and had access to a family boat.
The judge kept the bail at $3 million.
According to the Orange County district attorney's office, Taylor has five prior strike convictions for kidnapping, carjacking, making criminal threats, hit and run, and causing injury while driving under the influence.
Along with Taylor, three other men were originally arrested in connection with the alleged scheme, though charges were quickly dropped for lack of evidence.
They were Taylor's younger brother, Matthew Austin Taylor, a well-known surfer; their father, John Reid Taylor, a surf-shop proprietor who was part of the Hole in the Wall Gang surf team, which gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s; and Travis Sprague of Long Beach.
Only Joseph Taylor still faces charges.