Suspect wanted for murder in case of missing Lexington man is arrested in Texas

jmadden@herald-leader.comJanuary 23, 2014 

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    Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to contact the Lexington Division of Police immediately. Tips can be phoned in to the Division of Police at (859) 258-3600, the Robbery/Homicide Unit at (859) 258-3700 or Bluegrass Crime Stoppers at (859) 253-2020 or can be posted at Bluegrasscrimestoppers.com.

A man charged with murder in the case of Alex Johnson was arrested Wednesday in Texas, about 8 miles from the Mexican border.

The arrest of Robert Markham Taylor in Hidalgo County, Texas, came days after police announced that the Johnson case had changed to a homicide investigation from a missing-persons case. It also came three days after Lexington police issued an arrest warrant for murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Authorities in Texas arrested Taylor, 28, on Wednesday night at a motel in Pharr, a South Texas town of about 73,000. Pharr police also charged Taylor with possession of marijuana after several pounds were found in his vehicle.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Taylor had no connections in Texas, and the investigation remains open for the "last piece." She didn't specify what that piece is.

Taylor will be scheduled for an extradition hearing in Hidalgo County. His extradition will be arranged by the Fayette County sheriff, which is standard procedure.

Maj. Jay Pittman of the Fayette County sheriff's office said Taylor can choose to dispute the warrant, delaying the process for a few months. If he disputes it, the sheriff's department would have to seek a governor's warrant. If Taylor agrees to the extradition, he will be returned to Lexington in about two weeks, Pittman said.

Taylor was due in court Thursday for an arraignment before a Pharr municipal judge. He was supposed to be transferred to a detention center in Edinburg, Texas.

Roberts has said Taylor and Johnson "knew each other," but she stopped short of calling them friends. She said Johnson's slaying was not random.

Johnson, 32, disappeared Dec. 20 after his girlfriend said he ended a phone call with her by saying he needed to answer the door at his home on North Hanover Avenue. Johnson's case became a missing-persons case after relatives became concerned when Johnson didn't return calls or follow through with plans he had made with friends that night. He also didn't attend a meeting at work the next day.

As of Thursday, no body had been found, Roberts said.


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Investigators have not said how Timothy Ballard, who was charged Tuesday with kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the case, knew Johnson.

Court documents say Ballard, 42, assisted in the unlawful restraint and transport of Johnson and disposed of evidence. The offense is listed for Dec. 20, according to court documents.

The documents say Ballard pleaded not guilty Tuesday during an arraignment. He was being held in the Fayette County Detention Center on a $253,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 29.

Ballard's connection to Taylor also is unclear.

According to court documents and interviews with friends, Taylor has lived in both Florida and Kentucky.

In 1998, Taylor, then 13, moved in with his grandmother, who received guardianship of him that August. Taylor, who had lived with his mother in Saint Petersburg, Fla., moved to Lexington to "receive a good education and home life," according to court documents.

He attended Tates Creek Middle School and lived with his grandmother for a year in her two-story brick home near Tates Creek Road. His mother died in 2007, and his grandmother died in 2009.

Taylor's uncle Howard Spurr told the Herald-Leader that his nephew was raised by "a lot of people" and spent most of his life in Florida.

"It's a sad situation," Spurr said of his nephew's arrest.

Until Thursday's arrest, Taylor had not faced more than minor traffic offenses, according to Fayette County court records.

It's unclear where Taylor worked. David Jones, owner of Soundbar on South Limestone, said Taylor was a "part-time employee of Soundbar during a portion of the calendar year 2012. His employment with Soundbar began and ended in 2012."

Johnson's disappearance has created a stir in the community. Friends and family have united for fundraisers and gatherings. Last week, they met at Blue Stallion Brewing Company to celebrate what would have been Johnson's 33rd birthday.

News of a second arrest in the case provides some closure in the mystery of what happened to Johnson. However, there's still more work to be done.

"It has been a successful investigation, and we just have to let things play out in court," said Steve O'Daniel, a private investigator who has become close with the Johnson family and helped police with the investigation. "We must not lose sight in finding Alex."

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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