LANCASTER, Calif. — California officials have released chilling details of a Lancaster personal trainer who decapitated two of his children and forced their younger siblings to look at their dead bodies for five days.
Maurice Jewel Taylor Sr., 34, is charged with two counts of felony murder and two counts of child abuse under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury or death. He is being held in the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of bail set at $4.2 million.
Taylor is accused of fatally stabbing his two older children, Maliaka Taylor, 13, and Maurice Taylor Jr., 12, on Nov. 29. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that both children were decapitated.
“The defendant’s other two boys, ages 8 and 9, were allegedly shown their murdered siblings and were forced to stay in their bedrooms for several days without food,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Los Angeles County firefighters were called around 7:50 a.m. Dec. 4 to the family’s home in the 45000 block of Century Circle in Lancaster on a report of a possible gas leak, Los Angeles County homicide detectives said.
“Fire personnel responded and made entry into the location, at which time they saw a male and a female deceased inside the location,” according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Department. “Fire personnel immediately called LA County Sheriff’s Department Lancaster Station deputies, which responded and secured the location.”
Taylor, the children’s mother and the two younger children were all in the home at the time the older children were found dead. The mother has not been charged with a crime.
She is not a suspect, authorities told the Los Angeles Times.
Lynn Mullineaux, a friend of the children’s maternal grandmother, Debra Brothwell, spoke out on the family’s behalf. Mullineaux told ABC7 in Los Angeles that Brothwell, who lives out of state, was pushed away over the years. On a GoFundMe page Mullineaux established to help the grandmother go to California to see about her daughter and remaining grandchildren, she wrote that Brothwell was “taken from their lives by a controlling son-in-law.”
“She has made pleas for any information, any knowledge, any information that she could find to know that her grandchildren were OK,” Mullineaux wrote on the fundraising page. “But two days ago, Miss Deb got the news that none of us would ever want to have to wake up to. Two of her beautiful grandchildren were murdered and taken from this Earth.”
Mullineaux told the news station that the separation wasn’t always the case.
“She was pushed out of their lives and that relationship was severed,” Mullineaux told ABC7. “That was not her doing and that was a very unfortunate thing.
“There was a time when she was in their lives every day and they are her world. There’s no way to put into words truly what any of our grandchildren mean to us. She’s continued to love them.”
Lt. Brandon Dean, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the slain children were found in separate bedrooms of the home. To his knowledge, the family did not have a history with the county Department of Children and Family Services.
The agency did not say whether its caseworkers had prior contact with the family.
“We mourn with the community over this tragic loss,” DCFS officials said in a statement.
The newspaper reported that some of Taylor’s fitness clients became concerned because he failed to send out the Zoom invitation for their scheduled class. They worried that a gas leak or some other danger had befallen the family.
“I knew they weren’t out of town,” one client said, according to the Times. “They didn’t have money to travel.”
One client called the Sheriff’s Department and another, attorney and writer Howard Kern, called the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“I said, ‘I’m concerned,’” Kern said. “‘We are concerned about a possible gas leak. There are four children and two adults — and we are concerned about their safety.’”
Clients described Taylor as reliable and “mellow,” but said he appeared to be under a “tremendous amount of pressure.”
“Think of the nicest person that you know, then multiply that by five,” Kern told the Times. “He worked so hard to support himself. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough to say what happened or what didn’t happen.”
Kern, who had been a client of his for seven years, said Taylor’s marriage seemed to be “contentious,” based on phone calls he received from his wife at the gym where he worked prior to taking his classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was embarrassing — you could hear her yelling at him,” Kern said. “He’d be very apologetic, and she’d be yelling at him.”
Kern told ABC7 that the allegations against Taylor are not consistent with the man he knew.
“I don’t know whether he’s guilty,” Kern told the news station. “I do know that the Maurice that I know, and the Maurice that everybody else I’ve spoken with knew from the training place that we work out, was that Maurice was a very kind and gentle man. We thought of him as a loving father, a devoted family man.”
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris appeared to link the crime to the added stress brought on by the pandemic.
“The social fabric of the country and the world has been shredded, and we are starting to see the aftermath,” Parris said. “What I’m seeing is more and more people feeling desperate, and that can only have one result.”
Taylor faces 57 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.
Cox Media Group