Gary Addison Taylor


Gary Addison Taylor

A.K.A.: "Royal Oak Sniper"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 4 - 20
Date of murders: 1972 - 1975
Date of arrest: May 20, 1975
Date of birth: 1936
Victims profile: Lee Fletcher, 25 / Deborah Heneman, 23 / Susan Jackson, 21 / Vonnie Stuth
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer / Shooting
Location: Michigan/Texas/Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on one count in Washington, April 1976

Michigan born in 1936, Gary Taylor spent his early years in Florida, launching his first attacks on women there, when he was in his teens.

His standard M.O. involved loitering around bus stops after nightfall, waiting for solitary women to disembark, assaulting them with a hammer.

Confined as a juvenile, Taylor returned to Michigan on release, in 1957, and there became notorious as the "Royal Oak Sniper," shooting women he found on the streets after dark. Thus far, none of his victims had died, and Taylor was shuttled from one psychiatric hospital to another over an eleven-year period, assaulting several Detroit women during ill-conceived furloughs.

Despite his continuing violence and a self-proclaimed "compulsion to hurt women," Taylor was rated a safe bet for out-patient treatment, "as long as he reports in to receive medication." Tiring of the game in late 1973, he stopped showing up at the hospital, and authorities waited fourteen months before listing his disappearance with the National Crime Information Center in Washington, D.C. By that time, Taylor had murdered at least four women in three different states.

A pair of victims from Ohio -- 25-year-old Lee Fletcher and 23-year-old Deborah Heneman -- were buried in Taylor's back yard before he abandoned his home in Onsted, Michigan, moving west to Seattle.

There, on the night of November 27, he abducted and killed a young housewife, Vonnie Stuth. Officers traced him to Enumclaw, Washington, where he sat still for interrogation but refused to take a polygraph exam. In the absence of an NCIC listing, homicide investigators did not know he was a fugitive, and they were forced to set him free. By the time Michigan authorities plugged Taylor's name into the national computer, he had vanished again, bound for Texas.

On May 20, 1975, Taylor was picked up in Houston on a charge of sexual assault, swiftly confessing his role in four murders. Victims Fletcher and Heneman were unearthed in Michigan on May 22, and Taylor signed confessions in two other cases, including those of Houston victim Susan Jackson, 21, and Vonnie Stuth, found buried near his former home in Enumclaw.

Further investigation cleared him of six other Washington murders, now blamed on Ted Bundy, but officers in Texas, Michigan, and California suspect him in as many as 20 unsolved homicides. Convicted on the four counts he confessed, Taylor was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans

Freedom to Kill.

Monday, Jun. 09, 1975

In a criminal career that has spanned two decades, Gary Addison Taylor, 39, an itinerant Michigan machinist, has robbed, raped, stabbed and otherwise brought mayhem to at least a dozen women in three states. Incredibly, courts and psychiatrists time and again have declined to keep him confined. Last week Houston police were holding Taylor on serious charges that may finally put him behind bars for good.

Taylor's lust for violence took bizarre forms. At 18, he was charged with attacking a woman with a wrench as she stepped off a bus in St. Petersburg, Fla. A jury acquitted him. At 21, he drove through four Detroit suburbs firing a gun at women. He wounded two, and was billed by local newspapers as "the phantom sniper."

A psychiatrist testified in court that "he is unreasonably hostile toward women, and this makes it very possible that he might very well kill a person." Taylor was declared insane and committed to Michigan's Ionia State Hospital, and three years later was transferred to the Lafayette Clinic in Detroit.

Out on a pass to attend a welding class, Taylor talked his way into a Detroit woman's home, then raped and robbed her. By the next year, out on another pass, he threatened a rooming-house manager and her daughter with an 18-inch butcher knife. He was not put on trial in either incident; instead he was sent back to Ionia.

In 1972, Taylor was released from the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti. Reason: under Michigan law, a person acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity cannot be kept indefinitely in a mental institution; he must be periodically certified mentally ill and dangerous to himself or the community. The psychiatric center's director, Dr. Ames Robey, diagnosed Taylor's condition as a character disorder and not a treatable mental illness. Robey did not think Taylor was dangerous as long as he took medication and did not drink.

Soon after his release, Taylor married. He and his wife Helen, a secretary, moved first to Onsted, Mich., later to the Seattle suburbs. Last December after separating from his wife, Taylor settled down in Houston. There he was indicted last week on three counts of aggravated sexual abuse, one count of attempted aggravated rape, and the rape of a 16-year-old pregnant girl. He is also likely to be indicted for the murder of a 21-year-old go-go dancer.

When news of his arrest in Houston reached Taylor's estranged wife in San Diego, she said Taylor had once told her that he had killed four people in Onsted. Meanwhile Taylor began to talk. But last week he insisted to a Houston justice of the peace that the police had beaten confessions out of him; the police called the charges nonsense.

Tipped off by Houston police, investigators in Onsted found the bodies of two Toledo girls, wrapped in plastic bags, buried outside the bedroom window of the old Taylor home. And in Enumclaw, Wash., authorities found the body of a missing woman behind a house where Taylor had lived. Last week he was charged with the killing.

Phantom Sniper.

The tragedies could have been averted if "the phantom sniper" had been locked up years ago in Michigan. But last year the state supreme court upheld the law that the cases of the mentally ill, including criminals, should be reviewed every six months. The problem comes in defining mental illness. In several recent Michigan homicide cases, psychiatrists have disagreed on whether those who committed the crimes should be confined. One man, who the police learned had killed seven persons for hire, was set free—and a month later stomped his wife to death.


DATE(S): 1972-76

VENUE: Mich./Tex./Wash.

VICTIMS: 20 suspected

MO: Rape-slayer of women in at least three states

DISPOSITION: Life term on one count in Wash., Apr. 1976.