Chicago Reader Story from February 24, 2005
What Makes a Dick Tick? It’s the chase, not the catch, that keeps private detective Perry Myers in the family business.
NOTE: We maintain full confidentiality of our clients. The special cases in this story involved clients who willingly gave permission for their names and cases to be used. All clients mentioned in this story agreed to have their case and real identifies used.
By Richard Knight Jr.
Perry Myers doesn’t know who murdered Lori Taylor one hot summer night in 1999. He can’t say for sure that Rosemarie Lombardi’s phone was tapped. And he has no idea whether DeAndre Wade’s claim that police let his cousin bleed to death holds any water. Myers, who runs MSI Detective Services, employs 11 full-time investigators who handle between 100 and 150 cases at any one time. It’s not that he doesn’t do the legwork–he might be overseeing perhaps 20 of those jobs. But he doesn’t usually stick around to see how things turn out. “It’s like a doctor after he gives you a prescription,” he says. “He doesn’t call you up and say, ‘Hey, how ya feeling?'”
Myers’s father founded the agency more than four decades ago, and Myers learned early to walk away from a case at the end of the day. He started out working mainly as a process server, handing out bad news in the form of subpoenas to wary and belligerent people. He had his car kicked, a shotgun brandished in his face, and worse: one man he served “had his two sons beat me up and threaten to kill me.”
“We often see people in such vulnerable emotional states,” he says. “You have to be able to get past that and stay focused on the job at hand.”
He has a gun but doesn’t usually carry it. The tools of his trade are a briefcase, a cell phone, and a Palm Pilot; his uniform is a polo shirt and jeans. MSI charges anywhere from $65 an hour (for basic surveillance, for example) to $225 an hour (for electronic countermeasures like detecting bugs and taps). Interviews and interrogations are Myers’s favorite part of the job. “The more successful interviewers almost get a bit of friendship with their suspect,” he says. “I’ve gotten confessions where people shake my hand and say thank you.” Those run $105 an hour. These days a separate division, run by Myers’s partner, Scott Stern, oversees process serving.
Most of MSI’s work is surveillance, which Myers divides into four categories. “An insurance client will request us to check up on a worker’s comp claim or lawsuit, for example,” he says. “Two, a business client will ask us to verify employee claims or see if someone has violated a non-compete or stolen trade secrets. Three, personal matters of all kinds, from infidelity to stalking, and four, attorneys who hire us to do all of the above. The personal ones become the most interesting, obviously.”
Darlene (not her real name) fell into the personal matters category. She had been wondering for months why her live-in boyfriend had become inattentive. She thought at first it might be tension created by moving in together. Then she started to have other ideas.
On his first day of surveillance Myers headed to the State of Illinois Building, where Darlene’s boyfriend worked. Dressed in a suit and a tie, he positioned himself near a bank of elevators in the lobby. Myers wolfed down a sandwich and made a few quick calls on his cell phone. “I’m in place,” he advised his office, then abruptly broke off, noting that the subject was on the move–and not alone. The boyfriend, who bore a faint resemblance to Clint Eastwood, had exited an elevator. The woman at his side had long blond hair. Myers casually strolled out of the building, following the couple south down LaSalle Street. The blond occasionally looked back. The boyfriend did not.
It was lunchtime in the Loop and the streets were jammed, making it easy for Myers to surreptitiously take photos. He phoned the office. “Positive ID on Clint Eastwood and the suspect. I’m in pursuit.” At the corner of Van Buren and LaSalle, the couple abruptly turned right and the blond looked back–directly at Myers. Myers betrayed no emotion, and there was no sign of recognition on her face. She went into a tobacco shop, bought cigarettes, and then proceeded south with the man. Myers followed at a discreet distance.
South of Congress it became impossible to blend in, as there was little other foot traffic. Myers ducked down behind a car as the woman looked back. When he stood up, the couple was about to disappear into a building. He flipped out a video camera and recorded them. Then he put the camera away and followed them into the lobby.
Moments later Myers stepped outside and phoned the client: “Yeah, I think it’s her home; it’s a residential building. I talked to a female security guard and pretended to be interested in buying a condo.” The client decided to walk over from her office to confront the couple when they exited the building. “Wow, this is getting juicy,” Myers said.
He moved to an underpass near the building, called a friend and made plans to meet later at the gym, then glanced at his watch. Myers needed to do some work on another case, and he was worried about time. He called one of his investigators, Monique Candia, and asked her to come and relieve him.
As Darlene approached, Myers observed, “Not much difference from the other lady, is there?” He walked over to greet her. Clearly upset, she gestured at the building. “Why doesn’t he just tell me? Why all the lies?”
“I’m sorry to have to leave, but Monique has handled many of these cases,” Myers said. “We’ll have videotape evidence for you.” “We just bought a house together.” “Here’s Monique now. Why don’t you stand over there in that underpass where they can’t see you, and I’ll send Monique over?”
“OK, but just make sure she knows that I want to confront them,” Darlene said and headed toward the underpass. Candia was getting out of her car. “The girlfriend is getting into place,” Myers told her. “She definitely wants to confront them. She’s ready to tell him to pack his bags. I’ll drop you off.”
Candia took the video camera and got into Myers’s car. He drove down the block to where Darlene was already waiting. “Good luck,” Myers said. “See you, Perry,” said Candia. She crossed the street and shook hands with Darlene.
During his first several years in business, Myers’s father, Stan, worked out of the family apartment in Albany Park. Myers’s mother, Netti, answered the phones, wrote up reports on cheating husbands and missing persons, and filled out the subpoenas Stan served.
English by birth, Stan had been recruited by British intelligence during World War II. “He spoke French, which was useful,” says Myers. “So they had him do a lot of interviews.” Stan’s siblings, who lived in Las Vegas, promised to put him through medical school after the war, but when he arrived in the States, they didn’t have the money.
Stan knew some people in Chicago and thought he’d try his luck here. “He always called Chicago the big little city,” Myers says. “Because it’s friendly, but yet . . .” Stan and a friend got rooms at the YMCA on Chicago Avenue. Stan went out to get ice cream cones to celebrate. By the time he returned, the “friend” had taken all his possessions.
A series of odd jobs followed: dishwasher, taxi driver, milkman. After marrying Netti in 1949, Stan settled into work as an adjuster for Fireman’s Fund Insurance. There he met a private investigator who began giving him assignments to supplement his income.
In 1959 Stan left the insurance company to start his own detective business. “He was more of a gambler than my mom,” Myers says. “She was very conservative about him quitting his job, but he was like, ‘I think I can make it, I think I can do this.'” He had business cards made up and starting canvassing Loop law firms. “He’d say, ‘I can find anyone. I can take statements. I can do whatever it takes.’ And finally one pretty good-size law firm said, ‘Well, we have eight people we need to find. We gave it to another guy, who hasn’t found them. So if you can find them, you’ll be our investigator from now on.'” Stan found all eight.
Though not a trained investigator, Stan “could get anything out of anyone,” says his son. “I think part of it may have been the British accent and the charm.” Myers was only a kid when he joined the family business. “There was a Michigan Avenue doctor he was trying to serve a subpoena, and the guy was avoiding him. So my dad brought my younger brother and I downtown. He says before we get there, ‘We’re going to visit a very nice doctor, and he likes it when you run around and jump on the furniture in his office.’ He bought us both ice cream, and we get there and start jumping like crazy. The nurse is yelling, ‘Get those kids off the furniture with those ice cream cones,’ and my dad says he won’t until she gets the doctor, so eventually the doctor comes out and says, ‘OK, give me the papers–just get those little bastards out of my office.'”
Another time Myers was in California with his father on a domestic case. “We were on the beach, and my brother and I were playing in the sand. He was making like he was shooting us with his little eight millimeter, when actually he was shooting the couple behind us.” Myers still has the camera.
Myers graduated from Mather High School in 1975 and enrolled at Illinois State University, majoring in communications and minoring in criminal justice. Stan wanted one of his four kids to take over the agency. “He preached that to us from the beginning. Part of me didn’t want to do that, because he wanted it, and part of me did,” says Myers. Both of his brothers and his sister worked briefly in the business, but they all moved on. In 1980, at the age of 21, Myers signed on full-time. The agency was still in the family home, now in Rogers Park. “At first it was my dad, myself, and a secretary. My mom worked part-time. She did a lot of pre-employment screening. I was in the area of surveillance and witness statements. My dad still did the majority of the locates.”
With all the children grown and out of the house, the bedrooms became offices as the agency hired more employees. “We had like six or seven phone lines in the house,” says Myers. Eventually the business moved to a building far north on Western Avenue.
It was Myers’s idea to begin promoting the agency more aggressively. “My father had a great reputation, but he didn’t really advertise. Why should we just wait for the phone calls from the lawyers? I thought. Let’s get a little diversity in the clientele. I started advertising in the Yellow Pages.” Whether it was the ads, the direct mailings Myers initiated, or “just people throwing a dart at the phone book, we noticed a big difference. We diversified, and the business grew with that.”
“This woman has been crucified!” Joe Lombardi exclaimed, putting his arm around his sister, Rosemarie, who was standing in her backyard clutching an armful of file folders. Inside them were documents she said would prove that certain members of the village of Addison had conspired against her. Her phone lines were tapped, she was sure of it. So she’d hired Myers to check them out. Back in 1997, Rosemarie Lombardi ran for mayor of Addison. A few months after she announced her candidacy, she was indicted for stealing money from her town house association. In October 1997 she was found guilty of felony theft, a ruling she appealed. The appeals court upheld the first ruling.
In September 2001 Lombardi filed suit against the village of Addison, the Addison police department, and the state’s attorney of Du Page County, charging the defendants with, among other things, malicious prosecution, invasion of privacy, and illegal wiretapping.
Myers didn’t know about any of this–he only knew that she’d hired him to check her phone lines for taps. “Frankly, I don’t know all the background on the case,” he’d said on the way to Lombardi’s house.
“Everyone has a story, you know. I hate to generalize, but many of these bugging people might seem to have paranoid delusions. I’ll just say that she’ll have a lot to say.”
His prediction proved correct: as Lombardi led Myers to the back of the house, she poured out her story. He nodded sympathetically as he measured the voltage on her line, looking for an imbalance or resistance that would indicate a tap. He stepped behind a thick clump of bushes and leaned over to examine the phone box.
“The voltage is higher than normal–it’s a little irregular,” Myers said as he stepped away from the bushes and into the backyard. “The business line has an imbalance–which is indicative of a tap. It wasn’t there the last time I checked. But I can’t say that it’s a tap for sure.”
“The FBI said on Monday that the line was tapped,” Lombardi said, beginning to sob. “Why can’t they just leave me alone? Leave my family alone?”
There was a long awkward pause while she stood there crying, still clutching her file folders. “I’ll call an FBI agent I know today,” Myers finally offered. “These things take time. I’m going to go check out the house.”
After about ten minutes inside, Myers returned to the yard, squatting down on the grass and looking up at Lombardi. “The good news is that you’re clear inside the house,” he began. As he spoke, two Addison police cars pulled up across the street. “I’m sure they heard you were coming,” Lombardi said, “and that’s why the cops showed up. All the neighbors are in on it together.” As if to validate what she was saying, the police officers were met by a woman in the driveway, who gestured toward Lombardi’s yard and then led the officers into her home.
Myers stood up and said firmly, “I have to get back.” Lombardi escorted him to the curb. “You’ve got to help me,” she implored. “I’m your friend,” he reassured her. “This is a test–you’ll get through this.” Back in the car, Myers dropped the Lombardi file on the seat next to him and left a message with his friend at the FBI as promised. “Rosemarie is like most clients,” he said. “They want things to move quickly, and these things just take time–and money.”
The California Pizza Kitchen in the Old Orchard shopping center was the site of Myers’s lunch meeting with Ed Ponder. Ponder had retained Myers to dig up information surrounding the 1999 murder of Lori Taylor, who lived in rural Clare, Illinois, an hour and a half west of Chicago. Lori’s husband, David Taylor, had been arrested, tried, and acquitted for her murder in a bench trial in 2001. Ponder wanted to find the real killer.
Myers and Ponder, the founder and president of the environmental action group Clean Earth, Inc., met at a 1999 meeting of the public-speaking organization Toastmasters International. “I took to Ed immediately. Everybody does,” Myers says. “He’s quite a character.” Ponder arrived for their meeting dressed in a bright blue Hawaiian shirt and greeted everyone as he walked to the table. Then he asked the waiter to bring the manager over. “I’ve never had lunch in your fine establishment,” Ponder told the manager. “But I can tell you right now I’m sure it’s going to be absolutely delicious.” The manager, pleasantly taken aback, offered to send over some complimentary desserts.
Ponder turned to Myers. “Perry, wonderful, wonderful to see you. I’m anxious to see what you’ve got.” Ponder had befriended Dave and Lori Taylor after he sold them their 40-acre farm in 1983. Ponder’s son
Mike had grown close to the couple and often hunted with Dave. According to Dave’s statement to police, he and Lori went for an after-dinner walk on August 20, 1999. After a while Dave turned back and Lori continued alone. Dave went to bed and didn’t report Lori missing until after he returned from an early golf game the next morning. Lori’s body was found in a cornfield not more than a quarter of a mile away.
She had sustained nine blows to the head with a blunt, heavy instrument, and her body had been dragged through the field, perhaps from the road. Investigators quickly focused on Dave and arrested him not long after. But Ponder, who helped pay for Dave’s defense, had his own suspicions about who had murdered Lori.
Myers had been out to De Kalb County twice, and he’d compiled a report for Ponder to take a look at over lunch. He’d looked up the criminal record of the person Ponder suspected, which included assault and battery charges. “Holy Christ!” Ponder exclaimed.
“They don’t know if the charges were for women,” Myers said. Ponder looked up from the papers. “Do you have a plan?”
“Yes. First we do surveillance, and then we send in a decoy–a woman–to soften him up. Then I’ll approach him in a bar, or just approach him, and see if he’ll submit to a confession.”
“Why would he confess?”
“This kind of crime often weighs heavily on a person’s mind. I think he might have done this while he was drinking.”
They discussed locations the suspect might frequent, and Ponder offered a physical description.
“What else do you need to know about him?” Ponder asked.
“I need to know what he does, where he goes, friends, that kind of thing.”
“Why don’t we take a ride out to De Kalb County and nose around?” Ponder suggested. “We could talk to Dave Taylor again and some other folks in the area.”
Myers agreed and added the date to his Palm Pilot.
The Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation grants two different types of licenses to work in the security industry. The Permanent Employee Registration Card is available to just about anyone 18 or older who hasn’t defaulted on his school loans and has a “fairly clean record,” says Myers.
“A blue card entitles you to work as a security guard for an alarm company, for example.” To become a fully licensed detective, however, is a different matter. Three years’ professional experience or similar work–say, as a security consultant–are required before someone can even take the test in Illinois, which is one of the toughest in the country.
“The test takes about three to four hours,” Myers says. “Once you pass, you’re entitled to get the license–which costs about $500 a year for three years.” Myers also needs to hold an agency license from the IDFPR and to provide proof of insurance–at least $1 million in liability coverage, for starters.
“It’s a fairly expensive process–not every insurance company will touch us,” he says. “That’s why when you call half the ads in the Yellow Pages the number’s been disconnected. A lot of guys want to be in PI but can’t afford the overhead.”
By the time Stan retired in 1990, MSI was on solid financial ground. In ’96 Myers moved it to an office near Elston and Armitage. In 2001 he bought the U-Spy Store, a retail outlet in Orlando, Florida, that sells security and locksmithing equipment and personal protection devices–everything from stun guns tonight vision goggles. Bob Brown, the store’s owner, was “an old-time PI who’s pretty well-known down there,” Myers says. “He wanted to sell us his agency, but we decided against that because it didn’t have any repeat clients.” Myers incorporated a Chicago version of the store as part of his office. Brown’s son,
Bob Jr., runs the store in Orlando. In late 2003 MSI moved again, to new offices at 3221 N. Ashland. Myers estimates that many detectives make “in the low 20Ks a year–not much. But I know guys out there making over a million a year running agencies.” MSI is somewhere in between. “The one detective show that I really enjoyed was The Rockford Files, because there was some realism to it,” says Myers. “The fact that he didn’t get paid that much. Every episode was like, ‘I never get paid, how am I going to stay in business?’ Now that was real.”
Two weeks after the California Pizza Kitchen meeting, Ponder and Myers headed for Clare, Illinois. According to newspaper accounts of Dave Taylor’s trial, the brutal manner in which Lori was killed suggested a crime of passion instead of a premeditated, professional killing. Dave became a suspect after local gossip suggested three different motives: (1) Dave and Lori Taylor had been arguing about their eldest son John, with whom they’d been having typical teenage problems, and Dave had killed her in a violent disagreement. (2) Lori had been having an affair with a neighbor she baled hay for, and Dave had killed her in a fit of jealous rage when she asked for a divorce. (3) Dave stood to come into his wife’s share of an inheritance once a dispute with her brothers over the sale of a large parcel of land was resolved.
“All bunk,” Ponder stated matter-of-factly. “Dave is not that kind of guy, and Dave will not lie. I honestly believe that if Dave had done it, he would have walked up and said, ‘I did it.'”
Despite a lack of physical evidence, Dave was arrested and charged in January 2000. Local reports of the trial suggest that prosecutors favored theory number one. But Dave’s DNA did not match the material under Lori’s fingernails, which was believed to have come from two different sources. Dave was acquitted on December 21, 2001–28 months to the day after Lori’s body was found.
Pulling off at the De Kalb exit, Myers looked around and commented, “This is right around where I was involved in this extortion case. This guy wanted $100,000 for these audiotapes, and we got him to accept a cashier’s check! I did the exchange at this bank somewhere around here. The FBI busted this guy as we were making the exchange. The guy threw the check back in my face, and I said, ‘It’s a little late for that.'”
“Boy, I bet you have a lot of interesting cases,” Ponder said.
“That’s why I’m here, Ed.”
“If it wasn’t for Ed, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now,” Dave said to Myers, who was sitting in Dave’s kitchen with Ponder. Yellowing newspaper accounts of the trial were spread out on the table. A poster showing the location of radioactive dump sites around the U.S. hung on the wall next to a grandfather clock. Above Dave’s head were color copies of family photos–including one of his late wife.
For 20 minutes Myers had been taking notes on a legal pad. Mostly he had listened as Dave and Ponder talked at length about the case. Now he asked Dave about his relationship with his wife.”It was more than good.” “It was impeccable?” “Absolutely.” The discussion turned to Lori’s inheritance. “Lori’s brothers offered her $1,000 an acre for the land–it
was worth $3,800–there’s 300-some acres,” Dave explained. “There was local gossip at the time that said that Lori’s brother Rick killed her over this land deal. I’ve signed it all over to my kids. Believe me, the bank and the lawyers are milking this dry–no one’s going to end up with anything.”
Ponder talked a bit about filing a wrongful prosecution suit on Dave’s behalf, and Myers outlined his strategy of approaching the man Ponder suspected. “I’d also like to see if I can get that DNA retested.
First, I want to see if I can get the case reopened.”
“Well, good luck with that one,” Ponder said as he and Myers stood to leave. Dave thanked them for coming.
Ponder backed out of the driveway, waving out the window. “Dave’s a good guy. He hasn’t deserved any of this,” he said. He drove slowly up the road and then stopped just over a ridge beyond the house.
“That’s where they found Lori,” he said, pointing to the right. He parked and walked over to the spot with Myers. A slight breeze rustled the drying cornstalks. Ponder, obviously moved, said, “She was 45.”
“That’s awfully young,” said Myers.
At about 1 AM on another hot summer night, DeAndre Wade and his cousin Benny Eskridge pulled into a Marathon station at 67th and King Drive. Eskridge went inside to buy a cigar and a pair of dice, according to Wade, and in the meantime a woman they knew walked up to the car and asked for a ride home. At this point the woman’s boyfriend, Johnny Ruffin, approached and began baiting her. She and Wade ignored him and continued chatting, and Ruffin walked away. A few minutes later, as Eskridge was returning to the car, Ruffin came back over. Wade said he thought he was going to get punched. Instead of punching, Ruffin drew a gun and shot at the car six or seven times. Eskridge was hit.
Wade recalls that he raced down King Drive looking for a hospital. A patrol car pulled up next to him at a stoplight, and he screamed for help. Instead, a male police officer ordered Wade to get out of the vehicle, threw him up against his car, cuffed him, and tossed him in the back of the police cruiser. Wade says he frantically tried to tell the police that Eskridge had been shot, but claims they ignored him. “I think he’s shot in the back,” Wade remembers saying. “Oh please, oh please, call an ambulance.” The officer did, but Wade contends that in the meantime they did nothing for Eskridge, who had no vital signs when the ambulance arrived.
A week after his trip to De Kalb County, Myers was sitting inside a barely furnished apartment at 64th and King Drive. He had been hired by attorney David Cherney (who in turn had been hired by Eskridge’s mother) to investigate the circumstances surrounding Eskridge’s death. Cherney wanted to find out whether there were grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. As part of his investigation, Myers was taking Wade’s statement.
Witness statements are one of Myers’s specialties. “Typically it’s to prevent a witness from changing their mind,” he explains. “Cases in Cook County, for example, may take seven years to come to trial. The statement locks things in time and place.” Myers sat across from Wade with a tape recorder as Wade repeated his story several times for Myers. He was getting progressively more upset with each telling, and Myers asked him to slow down. “The police didn’t try to help Benny–they just looked in the window at him,” Wade said.
“Did they call an ambulance right away?” Myers asked.
“I think they did.”
“Did they immediately put you in the back of the police car after handcuffing you?”
At that point, Wade told Myers, a fire truck had pulled up, blocking his view of the car. The ambulance arrived 45 minutes to an hour later; he thinks it turned its lights off within five minutes. “When they turned the lights off the ambulance my life was over,” Wade said.
“Benny was dead?”
Wade nodded his head and broke down sobbing. “They wouldn’t listen to me. I kept saying that he was shot in the back, that he was hurt.”
Myers asked him how Eskridge looked the last time he saw him in the car. Wade hunched over. “Benny was choking. I told him I would get help.” Myers asked him to draw a map of the area, noting where the store was, where he drove, where the police were, where other police cars were, and placement of the fire truck and ambulance. When he finished, Myers drew a fresh one to clarify as Wade watched.
Myers asked Wade about Ruffin.
“I knew him but I never had a problem with him.”
“Why do you think he started shooting?”
“He just let the wrong thought cross his mind.”
Myers asked for Ruffin’s girlfriend’s number. “Do you think she’ll talk?” he asked Wade, who nodded his head. Myers rose to go.
“I never should have stopped,” Wade said.
“If there’s anything else I need, I’ll call you,” Myers said.
An autopsy later showed that one of the bullets Ruffin fired had pierced Eskridge’s left lung and his thoracic aorta. Cherney determined that with such an invasive wound, he wouldn’t be able to make any connection between an ambulance delay–“if you could prove there was an unreasonable delay”—and Eskridge’s death, so a suit was never filed against the CPD. Johnny Ruffin was charged with first-degree murder; his case is still pending.
Ed Ponder was eating a piece of pizza, this time at the Gallery Cabaret in Bucktown. A bartender there had once been a tenant of his, and he liked to stop by and see him from time to time. It was around 9:30
in the evening, a few months after the trip to Dave Taylor’s house, and Myers wanted to go over his plan of action with Ponder.
“I’m making a report that I’ll present to the De Kalb County state’s attorney to try to get the case reopened and the DNA retested. Second, we try to get someone at the state police to investigate. And third we try to get some heavy media attention–though that’s a little out of Chicago’s coverage area.”
“Sometimes you have to uncover some stones to get people interested. Is there still a chance of a confession?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, we’ve been working against the wind all along. Which is not unlike what we’re going through in this country.” Ponder went into a long diatribe about America’s political system and its deplorable effect on the environment. Myers listened patiently.
“We’ve got very strong DNA evidence,” he said when Ponder finished. “But I got nowhere with the DNA expert.” He talked again about approaching the man that Ponder suspected. “I’m not opposed to trying for a confession. That’s still an option. Has there been a change in the state’s attorney’s office?”
“I’m not sure. It’s not too late to call Dave Taylor and find out.” Myers phoned up Taylor and they talked for a minute. “There’s no new sheriff,” he said, hanging up. “He ran unopposed.”
“Damn,” Ponder said. “Somebody has to be accountable to somebody on this thing. I have the name of a DNA expert–I told him what we know and he said he’d like to see the evidence.”
“You know, Ed, if they wanted to, they could prove it with the DNA they already have.”
“That’s what he implied.”
About a month later, Myers had a meeting with Clint Hull, who was assistant state’s attorney at the tail end of the Taylor case. Hull told him the case had been prosecuted before he came on board. “He basically said there wasn’t enough evidence to reopen the case,” Myers said. “And that there’s no point in retesting the DNA because it’s a very, very small amount, a trace amount. They don’t believe that the amount found on her nails was a result of fighting off her attacker because the first blow did her in.” An investigator handling the case had not returned his calls.
By mid-2004, the lunchtime Loop surveillance, the possible wiretap, and the Wade witness statement session were far off Myers’s radar screen. The Taylor murder investigation remained inactive, other than a phone call Myers received one day from Ponder: “Ed had gotten the trial transcript, and he was trying to plan some sort of meeting with the lawyers and everyone to discuss a plan to go forward.”
A few weeks later, Myers got a distressing call from Ed’s son, Mike. On the night of June 24, Ed’s car had slammed into the back of a semi. An autopsy revealed a clot in Ponder’s brain that may have caused him to have a seizure or perhaps just fall asleep at the wheel.
At the wake, Mike Ponder mentioned that he had the transcript, but Myers wasn’t sure whether he’d want to proceed with the investigation his father started. “From my standpoint there seems to be a murderer at large,” Myers says. “It would be nice to resolve that, although there are lots of murderers at large. I can’t get too emotionally involved in every one.”
This one, however, seems to have gotten under his skin. “The nature of our business is that we gather the facts and move on. A lot of this is in brief interludes. We’re used to the unfinished story. But yeah, this one’s a shame. It’s not easy to let this one go.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jim Newberry.