When burglars tried to break into Jordan Taylor’s home in West Baltimore in November 2019, the beloved youth sports director at the Y in Catonsville thrust his weight against the door to try to stop them.
Determined to get into the residence, armed assailants began shooting into the door of Taylor’s residence, striking him several times.
His wife, Twila, called 911 while the violent break-in was happening. Over her cries and pleas, assailants could be heard yelling demands.
“Where the f------ safe at? Come on! Where the safe at?” a man could be heard yelling, according to a recording of the call played at the trial of one of the alleged intruders. “I’ll blow your f------ brains out — where’s the safe at?”
The couple didn’t have a safe, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Stock said Monday during closing arguments in the Baltimore Circuit Court trial of Kahlil Madden, who is charged with murder, conspiracy and several other offenses.
“The only thing taken on Nov. 5, 2019, was the life of Jordan Taylor,” Stock said.
After the intruders fled, Twila Taylor applied pressure to her husband’s wounds. Officers arrived around 9:45 p.m. and medics took Taylor to the hospital, but the 31-year-old died early the next morning.
There was little in the way of physical evidence at the home to help investigators. Twila Taylor had seen three intruders, two of them masked, but none of the assailants left fingerprints or DNA.
The ensuing investigation by Baltimore Police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spanned more than a year, seizing on circumstantial evidence to charge Madden and three others.
Aaron Butler, 50, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder last week in the case. He faces life in prison at sentencing Sept. 7, where his attorney, Andrea Jaskulsky, said there will be several “mitigating factors for him.”
“He’s a 50-year-old man who was working full time, who has a wonderful supportive family, who thought this through and just wanted to proceed the way that he chose to,” Jaskulsky said.
Donta Holdclaw, who also was charged in Taylor’s death, died awaiting trial, and prosecutors in March 2021 dropped the charges against Elease Frazier because of “insufficient evidence,” a spokesperson for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said.
The trial for Madden, 29, began in earnest last Tuesday. The jury started deliberating around 11:30 a.m. Monday.
“Mr. Madden has proclaimed his innocence from the beginning and continues to today,” his attorney, Staci Pipkin, said in closing arguments.
Twila Taylor, who testified twice at Madden’s trial, remembered an SUV leaving the parking lot outside their residence in the Gwynnbrook Townhomes community after the break-in that left her husband dead.
Investigators scoured for security cameras and came across footage from the town home community showing a blue Honda CR-V speeding away from the scene. They retraced the SUV’s likely exit and found speed cameras that showed a clearer image of the car: It had a sunroof, it had a Chesapeake Bay license plate and the front right wheel was either missing a hubcap or had a spare tire on.
Police queried law-enforcement databases for a vehicle that matched the description and got a hit on a vehicle stolen during a burglary about two months before the fatal shooting, according to court documents. Investigators also learned that Madden pawned an iPhone taken during the September burglary.
After taking the car from a parking lot in Baltimore County, police searched it. Crime lab technicians processed the Honda for DNA, with swabs from the steering wheel, gear shift, tire iron and jack. Each of those items produced a mixture of genetic matter with at least three contributors. Madden was one.
Madden jumped from a window when police knocked at his door in December 2019. Officers arrested him in connection with the September burglary, and confiscated his cellphone, which proved to be a break in the homicide case.
Records analyzed by the FBI showed Madden’s phone was either dead, turned off or in airplane mode at the time of the homicide. But he had communicated with a phone number six times before and after the fatal break-in.
Butler was on federal probation at the time of the homicide and his probation agent confirmed he used the number Madden had been in contact with.
Cellphones belonging to Butler and Holdclaw pinged off towers close to the Taylors’ residence around the time of the killing, an FBI analysis of their phone data found.
Those records show Madden’s phone came back on several hours after the shooting. Around 1 o’clock the next morning, he sent several Facebook messages to Frazier, who he’d gotten Butler’s phone number from weeks earlier.
“By the way, I put um, the sandwich inside your uh, grey tote with the mannequin on it,” he said to Frazier, before clarifying, “my bad, your grey suitcase with the little wig thing on it.”
Stock said in closing arguments she believed Madden was talking about a gun.
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But police never found a gun, and Pipkin cited Stock’s statement as an example of the type of “big jump” jurors would have to make to find her client guilty.
“Coincidences are not facts,” Pipkin said. “Coincidences are not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Three days after Taylor was gunned down, Madden sent a woman a screenshot of a post on the MurderInk Instagram account referencing the fatal break-in. He made several other comments that could’ve been interpreted to his admitting involvement in the crime, according to Stock.
Police in Georgia arrested Madden in 2021 on drunk and disorderly charges, but held him on an arrest warrant from Maryland. Homicide detectives in Baltimore traveled south to talk to him.
In that interview, he claimed not to have known Butler. But Stock displayed phone records showing numerous contacts between their phone numbers in the weeks leading up to Taylor’s killing.
“Are their holes? Yes,” Stock said of the investigation. “But when there are a few pieces missing from a 1,000-piece puzzle, you can still see the whole picture.”
The jury will resume deliberations Tuesday.