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Hearing Sought for Man Facing Execution Who Claims Innocence

ST. LOUIS—Attorneys for a Missouri man scheduled to be executed next month are seeking a new hearing, citing sworn statements they call “clear and convincing evidence” that he didn’t kill his girlfriend and her three children.

Leonard Taylor, 58, is scheduled to die by injection Feb. 7 for the 2004 killings of Angela Rowe, 28, along with her 10-year-old daughter Alexus Conley, 6-year-old daughter AcQreya Conley, and 5-year-old son Tyrese Conley. All four were found shot inside their home in the St. Louis County town of Jennings in 2004.

But on Friday, Taylor’s attorneys asked St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell for a new hearing. A spokesman for Bell said Monday that the request is being reviewed.

A year-old provision in a Missouri law allows a prosecutor to file a motion asking for a hearing before a judge if there is new evidence of a wrongful conviction. Bell is a Democrat first elected in 2018. He created a Conviction and Incident Review Unit responsible for looking at, among other things, potential cases of wrongful convictions.

At issue are new sworn statements from Taylor’s daughter, now 31, her sister and her mother. They claim that Taylor was in California at the time of the killings.

Police discovered the bodies on Dec. 3, 2004, after worried relatives requested a welfare check. Taylor, who had an extensive criminal record and was the live-in boyfriend of Angela Rowe, was arrested days later.

It’s not known exactly when Rowe and her children were killed. The Missouri Attorney General’s office believes it was before Taylor flew to California on Nov. 26, 2004.

But in the new filing, Taylor’s attorneys said that while in California, Taylor met for the first time a girl he had fathered 13 years earlier. The statement from Deja Taylor said she and her father called Angela Rowe during his visit. She said she spoke with Rowe and one of the children—proof, Taylor’s lawyers contend, that the family was still alive after Taylor left Missouri.

Deja Taylor’s mother and sister corroborated her story, the court filing stated.

“All of the evidence in this case, both old and new, presents a compelling case that Leonard Taylor could not have possibly committed these murders because he was out of the state from the early morning hours of November 26, 2004, until he was arrested in Kentucky and returned to Missouri on December 9, 2004,” the court filing states.

A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey declined comment.

By Jim Salter

The Associated Press

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