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Crime

Trial begins for Baltimore man accused of fatally shooting 7-year-old Taylor Hayes

Taylor Hayes was like any 7-year-old. She looked forward to the second grade, dressed in the color purple and adored Queen Elsa from “Frozen.” When she was fatally shot last summer, they stitched “princess” into her casket.

She became one of Baltimore’s youngest victims of gun violence. Someone took a shot through the trunk of the Honda she was riding in and hit Taylor in her back.

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The murder trial begins this week for the man charged with killing her. Keon Gray, 30, faces 32 counts including murder, illegally possessing a handgun and reckless endangerment. Taylor’s death in July 2018 struck yet another blow to a city gripped by gun violence.

City leaders, police and activists decried her killing and the escalation of violence in a city where a little girl can be shot while sitting in the backseat of a car. In the days afterward, mourners declared themselves the “Taylor Gang.” They wore white headbands and held a “Pizza Party for Peace.” She was buried in a purple casket 4½ feet long.

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One month later, police arrested Gray at a motel in Anne Arundel County. They charged him with her murder, alleging he opened fire on the car and hit the girl. Police have not provided a motive.

His defense attorney, Ken Ravenell, and prosecutors began choosing a jury Monday. They are expected to present opening statements Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Online court records show Gray has repeatedly faced criminal charges, though his last conviction appears seven years ago. He was charged with attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to first-degree assault. He was sentenced to 15 years with all but about seven months suspended.

Police charged Daneka McDonald, 35, who they said was Gray’s girlfriend, as an accessory after the shooting. They said it was her car driven in the shooting.

McDonald is scheduled for trial next month. Last month, Circuit Judge Wanda Keyes Heard prohibited from trial parts of McDonald’s 12-hour police interview. The judge found detectives had intimidated her and compared their questioning to the tough-guy tactics of 1930s G-men.

Police initially charged Darnell Holmes, the woman driving the Honda carrying Taylor and Holmes’ daughter, who was not hurt. They also charged her boyfriend, Malik Edison, who rode in the passenger seat, after officers searched the car and found a loaded gun, digital scale and heroin in the glove box, police said.

All charges against Holmes have been dropped, but Edison is scheduled for trial in October on gun and drug charges.


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