Gary Addison Taylor, a.k.a. "The Phantom Sniper" or "The Royal Oak Sniper", is an American ephebophilic serial killer, rapist, and robber active from 1954 to 1975.
Due to the lack of sources describing Taylor, details about his life and crimes are sketchy. Born in Michigan sometime in 1936, Taylor spent his early years in Florida. For unspecified reasons, he began randomly attacking women with a hammer, usually near bus stops that he would loiter at in wait. He was eventually incarcerated as a juvenile, but Taylor was released in 1957 and returned to Michigan, settling in Onsted. There, he acquired a job as a machinist. He also began his crime spree, shooting at random women walking on the streets after dark, eventually wounding two. He also robbed, raped, and/or stabbed a number of other women during that time. In 1961, Taylor threatened a rooming-house manager and her daughter with an 18-inch butcher knife, later being apprehended for his crimes, declared insane, and committed to Michigan's Ionia State Hospital; he later transferred to the Lafayette Clinic in Detroit three years afterward. He was eventually released and deemed suitable for outpatient treatment, being required to report in regularly for medication. Sometime in 1972, Taylor met and married a secretary named Helen, moving to Seattle, Washington, with her. However, the two divorced, and he moved to Houston, Texas, where he raped a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl and possibly murdered a 21-year-old go-go dancer. In late 1973, Taylor stopped taking his medication and failed to show up at his hospital. He was subsequently classified as "an escaped mental patient".
On November 27, he abducted and murdered a young housewife named Vonnie Stuth. Officers investigating the case tracked him at Enumclaw, Washington, where he was arrested. Allegedly, 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 an escaped mental patient, and they were forced to release him. Afterwards, he returned to Houston. Two years later, on May 20, Taylor was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman. When she heard of his arrest, Helen told police in San Diego, California, that he bragged to her about killing four people. Taylor later quickly confessed to committing four murders; two days later, an investigation turned up the bodies of 25-year-old Lee Fletcher and 23-year-old Deborah Heneman in Taylor's Onsted, Michigan home. Taylor also made written confessions to the deaths of Stuth and 21-year-old Susan Jackson, both of whom were found in his home at Enumclaw, Washington. He would later go on to allege that police officers beat him in order to extract a confession, but the accusations weren't believed by a judge. Further investigation cleared him of six other murders that occurred in Washington (which have now been blamed on serial killer Ted Bundy, who was active in the same state), but investigators in Texas, Michigan, and California suspect him in as many as twenty unsolved homicides. Taylor was eventually convicted on the four counts he confessed to and sentenced to one term of life imprisonment.
Not much is known about Taylor's crimes, other than he specifically targeted women. During his known crimes (not murders), he would loiter around bus stops and wait for any unaccompanied women before bludgeoning them with a hammer or a wrench. He then evolved to shooting random women walking in the streets after dark. It is exactly unknown as to how he killed his confirmed fatal victims, but after he killed them, he would cover their bodies in plastic bags and bury them on his property. It was also stated that he robbed, raped, and/or stabbed victims.
- Unspecified dates and locations in Florida: Numerous unnamed women (all bludgeoned with a hammer or a wrench, but survived)
- c. 1954, St. Petersburg, Florida: Unnamed woman (bludgeoned with a wrench; survived)
- c. 1957, Detroit, Michigan:
- Nine unnamed women and girls (all shot at in separate events, but missed)
- Two unnamed women (both injured)
- c. 1960, Detroit, Michigan: Unnamed woman (raped and robbed, but not killed)
- c. 1961, Detroit, Michigan: Unnamed rooming-house manager and her daughter (threatened both with a butcher knife)
- c. 1972, Houston, Texas:
- Unnamed 16-year-old girl (raped only; was pregnant)
- Unnamed 21-year-old woman (possibly)
- 1973, Enumclaw, Washington:
- Unspecified date: Susan Jackson, 21
- November 27: Vonnie Stuth, 22
- May 20, Houston, Texas: Unnamed woman (sexually assaulted only)
- May 22, Onsted, Michigan (found; both were buried in his backyard):
- Lee Fletcher, 25
- Deborah Heneman, 23
- Note: In total, Taylor is suspected of committing a final count of at least twenty murders.
On Criminal Minds
Taylor was mentioned in the Season Three episode Scared to Death when Reid brought up his tendency to change his M.O. whenever his need to control the situation changed, while the BAU was discussing the prominent unsub's varying M.O.