Fayette County

Man sentenced to 49 years for UK chef Alex Johnson’s murder

Robert Markham “Mark” Taylor, left, was convicted in the murder of Alex Johnson, right.
Robert Markham “Mark” Taylor, left, was convicted in the murder of Alex Johnson, right. Lexington

Robert Markham “Mark” Taylor was sentenced Friday to 49 years in prison for the December 2013 slaying of University of Kentucky chef Alex Johnson.

Taylor, 31, was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence on June 15.

Judge Thomas L. Clark sentenced Taylor to 22 years for murder, 22 years for kidnapping and five year for tampering with evidence. Taylor will serve the sentences consecutively and will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

Johnson, 32, disappeared in December 2013. His body was found in January 2014, in a barrel in the Kentucky River.

Before his death, Johnson supplied large amounts of marijuana for Taylor, who was a dealer in Lexington. Taylor’s co-defendant, Timothy Ballard, described Taylor and Johnson as “best friends.”

“They brutally beat him to death. He didn’t deserve anything like that for selling marijuana,” Lee Johnson, Alex’s father, said after the sentencing.

Lee Johnson said he doesn’t think Taylor’s sentence was enough.

“If you kidnap a man like Mark Taylor and Timothy Ballard did our son, and literally brutally beat him to death, stuff his body in a barrel and throw his body in the Kentucky River and all he gets is ... 49 with a chance of parole after 20 years, is that justice? No,” he said.

Johnson and his family are talking to state legislatures in an effort to allow harsher punishment for people convicted of murder.

“The victim should always have more rights than the person that perpetrated, and in this case they certainly didn’t,” Johnson said.

He also said that although the court dates are over and time has healed the family in some ways, it will never be over.

“Our son is dead and we can’t bring him back, so I don’t care what happens to Mark Taylor,” Johnson said. “I’d really wished he’d be put to death.”

Taylor’s defense attorney, Sandra Downs, asked Clark to make Taylor’s sentences concurrent so they would be closer to the 25-year sentence that Ballard, his co-defendant, was given. Ballard pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against Taylor at trial.

“I’m of the opinion that when people go to a trial, and they have an absolute right to a trial. ... “You see that the person that chooses to go to trial, under his constitutional rights, gets more time than the person who was just as involved in it but rolls,” Downs said after the sentence was announced.

Downs said Taylor’s defense team is prepared to appeal the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court. That process could take two years.