“Making peace with John allowed me to reclaim my life”
John Albert Taylor was born on New Year’s Day 1960. His father, Albert, either deserted or was thrown out and Taylor became a “whipping boy” for his mother and stepfather. He had seven sisters and stepsisters. One sister, Laurie Galli, said her brother raped her three times when she was a child.
While a teenager, he spent three years in a sex-offenders programme at a Florida mental hospital and later spent ten years in a Florida prison on a burglary charge. It was said that he was a committed paedophile from the age of 17. In June 1989 he was visiting Laurie who lived in an apartment on Washington Terrace in Salt Lake City. Afterwards, he broke into the home of Sherron King. Mrs King was not at home but her 11-year-old daughter Charla Nicole was.
She was one day short of her 12th birthday. He raped the child and then garrotted her with a telephone cord. He left her naked body on her mother’s bed, the phone cord still around her neck. He was arrested two days after Charla’s funeral when his fingerprints were matched to some found on the telephone in the King bedroom.
Washington Terrace, Salt Lake City,Utah, USA
Taylor was sentenced to death and was given the choice of a lethal injection or facing a firing squad. He opted for the latter because, he said, it would be costly and embarrassing for the state and because he was afraid of “flipping around like a fish out of water” if given an injection.
He spent more than six years on Death Row before he was shot in Utah State Prison at 12.03am on 26 January 1996. He became a Catholic a week before his death. He is the last person to have been executed by firing squad in the United States.
More than 150 television crews from around the world reported the execution. After eating a last meal of pizza “with everything” Taylor was dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit (so the blood wouldn’t show) and placed into a steel chair adapted to collect blood and bodily fluids. A white circle was placed over his heart, and he was held in the chair by his arms, legs, chest, and head. In front of him were five identical .30-calibre deer rifles — four were loaded and one was blank so that each shooter — paid $300 — could believe that he had not fired the fatal shot.
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Despite his large family, Taylor could not fill the five witness seats allocated to those closest to him. His victim’s mother said, “Thanks to God for giving me the strength to get through the last six and a half years, and for helping me to forgive John Albert Taylor. I know many people cannot understand this, but making peace with John allowed me to reclaim my life and the wonderful memories I will always have of Charla.”