The Justice Files: Innocent but reputation is tarnished

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a sight West Taylor has not forgotten. In 1992, he arrived at his parents home only to see his father in handcuffs.

“I happened to see my father in handcuffs on the front lawn in nothing but his underwear,” said Taylor. “(It) was kind of embarrassing and there were police all over the place.”

That day, deputies with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office put Willard Dale Taylor under arrest for a 20-year-old murder.

His son was 27 years old at the time and when he arrived at the home he started talking with his mother.

“She said ‘your father killed somebody’ and I go ‘what?'” Taylor said. “I couldn’t believe that.”

The elder Taylor was eventually charged with the 1972 murder of Greg Nickell.

It had been two decades since authorities found Nickell’s body inside his burned vehicle at an overlook west of Vernal. An 18-year-old girl was also with Nickell at the time of shooting. She survived but not before she was raped.

“They could not find a killer of killers because they could not find anyone that had anything against Greg,” said Lynnette Nickell Ray, a sister.

Back then Uintah County Sheriff Lloyd Mecham claimed a tip lead them to Taylor who lived in Salt Lake County.

“It had something to do with my half-sister, I believe,” said Taylor. “She is the one who called in a report on him.”

According to Taylor, his father boasted about killing Nickell in a fit of anger with the half-sister.

“He was upset with her at the time and I think he was just trying to scare her,” said the son. “I mean really scare her. I don’t think he would have harmed her.”

But it was enough to land Dale Taylor in court after prosecutors charged him with Nickell’s murder. Wes Taylor said he felt the wrath of the community.

“People would say ‘I know that guy, I know that guy, his dad killed somebody’ and that kind of kind of didn’t sit well with me,” said the younger Taylor.

And months later, DNA proved Taylor didn’t kill Nickell. He is set free. Dale Taylor died in 1998. His son said his father never recovered from the shame associated with the allegations.

“He had always been a drinker and it just got worse and worse and then he started doing drugs and and I think ultimately that’s what killed him,” said the son.

In 1994, Dale Taylor sued the Uintah County sheriff for false arrest but the case was dismissed.
As for the Nickell’s murder, it remains unsolved.

But authorities re-opened the case and are now waiting for results of DNA from two men who are considered persons of interest.

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