Manhattan Murder Suspect Now Charged With 2010 Rape

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Justin Taylor, the Manhattan man accused of beating an Army veteran to death in Aggieville this past summer, is now being charged in another case. Riley County police say he raped a 57-year-old woman nearly two nears ago.

Justin Taylor, 25, has pleaded not guilty to Intentional 2nd Degree Murder. He is charged in the death of 31-year-old Kevin Cockrum, a former Army combat medic, who was brutally beaten in Manhattan's Aggieville district in the early morning hours of August 11, 2011 and died from severe head injuries the next day.

Taylor, a former Kansas State University student, was arrested and charged in the case the week after Cockrum died and has been in the Riley County Jail as the case has progressed in court.

On Wednesday, February 22, 2012, the Riley County Police Department sent out a press release revealing that Taylor is now a suspect in another case, stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

In the release, Lieutenant Josh Kyle, the Public Information Office for the Riley County Police Department, stated: "On 6/25/2010 at 1:10 a.m. officers from the Riley County Police Department were dispatched to the intersection of Denholm and Kimball in Manhattan, Riley County, Kansas for the report of a rape of a 57 year old female.
The matter has been under investigation since that date. As a result of this investigation a suspect has been arrested by the Riley County Police Department and a charge of Rape, contrary to K.S.A. 21-3502(1)(A), was filed against Justin Charles Taylor (d.o.b. 12/29/1986) of Manhattan, Kansas on 2/22/2012 by the Riley County Attorney’s Office.
A first appearance is scheduled for 2/24/2012 at 1:00 p.m. The Riley County Attorney’s Office would like to remind the public that the charges against Justin Charles Taylor are accusations only and he should be presumed not guilty of the same. Mr. Taylor has been in the custody of the Riley County Jail since 08-17-2011 on an unrelated matter."

Lieutenant Kyle would not say what new evidence led police and prosecutors to charge Taylor with the rape. No other details on the reported assault are being released.

All questions about the case are being directed to the Riley County Attorney's Office. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson said he could not discuss the developments in the rape case. Taylor's attorney, Larry McRell, told WIBW that he had no comment Wednesday.

As for the murder case, Taylor's trial is set to start on April 10, 2012.

His friend, 20-year-old Levertis Horne, was also charged as an accomplice in the murder but the charge was dropped and Horne was released the next day. Riley County police officials said they did not have enough evidence to charge Horne.

Levertis Horne testified in a previous hearing, saying that he went out with Taylor in Aggieville the night of the murder to have a few drinks. Horne says they encountered Kevin Cockrum, the victim, in an alleyway near the intersection of 11th Street and Bluemont Avenue after Horne shouted an expletive at a woman Cockrum was with. Horne says Cockrum came at him swinging a Maglite flashlight. Horne dodged and the flashlight grazed his arm and when Cockrum swung at him again, Horne says he ducked and hit Cockrum in the jaw with his fist, knocking him out. Then, he testified that Taylor grabbed Cockrum’s flashlight, bent over him and hit him “hard” with “two rapid blows.” They started to drive off but Horne says Taylor stopped and went back for the flashlight and threw it down a nearby gutter.

Taylor’s attorney, Larry McRell, Chief Public Defender for the North Central Regional Public Defender's Office, tried to suppress Taylor’s statement to the Riley County Police Department the day he was arrested on August 17, 2011. McRell painted Taylor as an “emotionally fragile” man who did not have a concrete understanding or knowledge that he could remain silent and could have an attorney when he was questioned by investigators.

In the motion to suppress the alleged confession filed by Larry McRell, it states: “Eventually, Mr. Taylor acknowledged that he had struck Mr. Cockrum with a flashlight twice in the head while he was on the ground after Mr. Levertis Horne had struck a violent blow to Mr. Cockrum’s chin with his fist. Mr. Cockrum died later from injuries he suffered during the fracas between he, Mr. Horne and Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor disputes that he is responsible for the death of Mr. Cockrum and contends that Mr. Horne struck Mr. Cockrum first and it was that strike and the consequence of hitting his head when he fell to the asphalt pavement that resulted in Mr. Cockrum’s death (diffuse axonal injury). Mr. Taylor is now, and was then, displaying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, dementia, chronic substance abuse, major depression with melancholia and dependent personality disorder. ..Mr. Taylor was not capable of making a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of his rights. He exhibited symptoms during his interrogation that are suggestive of a mentally ill person suffering from mental illness and incapable of understanding the consequences of his alleged waiver..."

Riley County District Court Judge Paul Miller denied the motion to suppress Taylor’s statement to the cops, accepting it into evidence for his trial. The judge says the Miranda warning advising Taylor of his rights is not complicated or hard to comprehend and has been understood by many defendants. He says Taylor voluntary, intelligently and knowingly waived his rights.

Justin Taylor is being held in the Riley County Jail. Lieutenant Kyle says his bond on the murder charge is $250,000 and the bond for the rape charge has been set at $100,000.

The victim, Kevin Cockrum, a father of five, was a former combat medic in the military and served two tours in Iraq. Family members say he was in improvised explosive device explosions in both tours and received two Purple Hearts. Cockrum served in the military for about eight years and was last stationed at Fort Riley in September 2010.


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