Waterloo cop killer 'T-Bone' Taylor dies in prison

2014-03-20T06:00:00Z Waterloo cop killer 'T-Bone' Taylor dies in prisonBy The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Mason City Globe Gazette
March 20, 2014 6:00 am  • 

WATERLOO | One of this city's most notorious killers -- and arguably the state's -- has died.

James Michael "T-Bone" Taylor, 60, died Tuesday at University Hospitals in Iowa City. He had been transferred there from the Iowa State Penitentiary where he has been serving two life sentences for the killing of Waterloo police officers Wayne Rice and Michael Hoing in 1981.

Prison officials said he died of natural causes due to complications from an aortic aneurism.

Here are the details of the killing:

It was still very warm about 11:30 p.m. July 12, 1981, when a woman called police headquarters with a complaint. She'd called three times before about the loud music at a neighboring house, and was again calling police wanting them to get it turned down.

The police dispatcher waited until third-shift officers Wayne Rice, 27, and Michael Hoing, 28, finished up on another call and then about 11:45 p.m. sent them to 1027 Franklin St. They arrived several minutes later.

Testimony at Taylor's trial revealed that Rice and Hoing asked the people at the home to turn down the music, and told dispatch as they walked away that if they had to come back they'd be making arrests. As they neared their squad car, someone at the party jeered the officers. Moments later, Hoing came on the radio.

"Get another car over here. We're going to (arrest) at least one."

Trial testimony showed that before any other squad car could get there, there was a fight between the partygoers and the two officers.

Rice was knocked to the ground after being struck in the head by a chair. Taylor, one of the partygoers, grabbed Rice's .357 Magnum revolver from his holster and shot the officer once in the side at close range. Taylor then turned the gun on Hoing, who was scuffling with another man on the top of the porch. He fired four shots at Hoing, striking him three times.

Within moments, other officers arrived at the scene, calling into their radios "two officers down." The two officers died a short time later.

Taylor fled the scene with Rice's gun, and it triggered a massive five-day manhunt. Taylor later told authorities that he first went to the Waterloo home he shared with a woman, then went to another woman's house seeking money and a car. In both cases, he told the women he had shot the officers.

Taylor left in the borrowed car, driving south, reportedly intending to go to St. Louis. But the vehicle was found abandoned at 4:10 a.m. that day just south of La Porte City on Highway 218.

Hundreds of officers from around the state conducted a farm-by-farm search of buildings and cornfields in the La Porte City area trying to find Taylor. Residents throughout the county armed themselves in fear, and called in reported sightings of Taylor.

As the week went by, and the city mourned the loss of the two officers, authorities began to believe he had slipped out of the area and was in another state.

It was during the frantic search on July 14 when the area lost its third officer, Black Hawk County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. William Mullikin, 29. He was a passenger in a sheriff's squad car that collided with another car at the intersection of County Road D-46 and Ansborough Avenue, south of Waterloo.

Three deputies were responding to a report of a shot fired in the area being searched for Taylor. The unmarked squad car, driven by Deputy Lt. John Sewick, was struck by a car driven by 72-year-old Gertrude Vance as she turned left in front of the officers. Sewick and passenger Deputy Mark Johnson were both hospitalized after the accident, which also killed Gertrude's husband, Robert.

(Former) Sheriff Mike Kubik, who was a sergeant at the time, remembers when word came out about the accident.

"Everybody just stopped what they were doing," he recalls.

But as had been the case all week, professionalism took over.

"If you talk to anyone, they aren't going to say it didn't faze them. But I guess we're taught to hold some of that back. We still had a job to do. The training took over. Everyone went back to doing what they had to do," Kubik said. "It made us more determined than ever to catch him (Taylor). We knew we were not going to give up until we found him."

Capturing T-Bone

On Friday, July 17, hopes that Taylor was still in the area were dimming. Most of the officers involved in the search took time off to attend Mullikin's funeral in rural Cedar Falls.

Waterloo Police officers Larry and Barb Coffin, Mark Shoars, Tom Shimp, William Haigh and Chuck Wolf volunteered to work patrol that day for the city and county. Sgt. Robert Shafer was the patrol supervisor. There were two officers to each car, one carrying a Waterloo police radio and the other carrying a county sheriff's radio.

It was about the lunch hour and most of the officers were either stopping to eat or in line for a quick fast-food lunch when the call came.

Two women went inside a vacant La Porte City home preparing it for renters when they were confronted by a man with a gun. Both screamed and fled the home but were chased by the man, who knocked one of them to the ground as he grabbed her purse.

The man was Taylor, who later told police he had been hiding out in the vacant home for two days. The house was located only a short distance from where Taylor had abandoned the car four days earlier.

Taylor stole the woman's car and sped off, eventually losing control of the vehicle on the Brandon curve. Police were notified about the gun-toting man and took off for La Porte City.

"Everybody headed there," Larry Coffin recalls.

State Trooper Marv Messerschmidt was the first to arrive. The car carrying Barb Coffin and Mark Shoars pulled up next.

"I remember when we got into town, people were pointing us in the direction," Coffin recalls. "We went around that S-curve, and then made a left and here was the car (T-Bone had stolen) in the ditch upside down. A farmer had seen him get out and run into a field and hadn't seen him come out."

When all of the officers arrived, Shafer ordered that soybean field surrounded to cut off any attempt at escape. Messerschmidt then took his shotgun and binoculars and moved row by row down the field.

"The wind was blowing so hard against the beans. We couldn't hear to talk to one another, and we had all different radios so we couldn't talk to each other," Barb Coffin remembers.

"As Marv was working his way to the east row by row, I happened to see him point his shotgun at T-Bone as he was on his knees," Larry Coffin said. He tried to get Shimp's attention, but couldn't because of the wind. Finally he just whistled and took off running.

Barb recalls that all of a sudden she saw Larry, her husband, take off running up the field.

"Then Shimp started running at them. Shoars passed me running. Then I saw him stand up," Barb Coffin recalls of her first glimpse of Taylor.

Coffin quickly put his cuffs on Taylor, then Shimp also cuffed him.

The officers walked Taylor out of the field, all under the watchful eyes of a crowd of La Porte City residents who had gathered to watch the capture of the most wanted man in Black Hawk County history.

The officers decided to get Taylor into protective custody as quickly as possible. With Shimp at the wheel and Haigh next to him, and Barb and Larry seated on either side of Taylor in the back seat, they raced back to Waterloo.

But word had spread quickly of the capture, and law officers who had been at Mullikin's funeral quietly left the service and headed toward the capture scene.

The officers remember having to dodge squad cars that were racing toward them as they drove back to Waterloo.

"We were already gone (from the scene), and in fact they were in such a hurry to get there, they ran us off the road," Larry Coffin said.

They'll never forget the line of cars and people that came to the roadway and stopped as they rushed Taylor to City Hall.

Taylor was taken into police headquarters, changed into a jail jumpsuit, and then arrangements were made to get him to the county courthouse across the street to make an initial court appearance.

Kubik drove a vehicle up to the back door of the station. Taylor was whisked inside it, and then the vehicle was surrounded by up to 20 law enforcement officers as they jogged with the vehicle across the street to the back door of the old county jail. Hundreds of people wanting to catch of glimpse of Taylor, were kept well back from the vehicle.

Bond was set at $2 million by then District Associate Judge George Stigler.

Taylor was put on trial quickly at the request of his attorney, Alvin Davidson. The case was moved to Pottawattamie County on a change of venue before Judge Peter Van Metre.

Bauch, who helped County Attorney Dave Correll prosecute the case, said the trial was moved to the federal courthouse in Council Bluffs for added security. The night after the jury was selected, law officers rebuilt the front porch of 1027 Franklin St. in the courtroom. They had taken the porch apart board by board and then rebuilt it to use as evidence.

"It was a very chilling sight to see where the deaths had occurred," Bauch said.

Taylor was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and received two life sentences. Joseph Phams, who had attended the party and struck Rice with the chair, was tried a year later and convicted of murder. His brother, Johnny Phams, who had wrestled with Hoing, received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter under a plea agreement that he testify against his brother and Taylor.

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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