On Dec. 3, 1990, the day before she died, Betty Lewellen "Lew" Masenior stayed at work late, running a printing press at her Timonium print shop to finish an important job a pressman had put aside when he went home early.
Masenior, 35, was seven months pregnant with her first child.
The next day, the pressman, Donald W. Taylor Jr., 25, of Baltimore, went to work early and bludgeoned and strangled Masenior, a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury has found.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for nearly three hours yesterday before finding Taylor guilty of first-degree murder, theft and five counts of forgery.
Masenior, who often lent money to Taylor, was killed because Taylor was trying to cover up his theft, forgery and cashing of five company checks worth nearly $1,600, said prosecutor John Cox.
On Dec. 5, a bank statement detailing the forged checks was due to arrive at the Print Shack in the 2000 block of York Road, Cox said.
"He's the only man with a motive," Cox told the jury during closing arguments. "He's about to get caught in a serious crime" of theft and forgery.
Judge J. William Hinkel set sentencing for Sept. 3. Taylor faces a possible sentence of life in prison, plus more than 50 years on the theft and forgery convictions.
During the four-day trial at which more than 20 witnesses testified, the state presented an admittedly circumstantial case against Taylor, who declined to testify in his own defense.
In his closing argument, Cox went through the "puzzle pieces" that fingered Taylor as the man who murdered his boss.
There were the five stolen checks, which were cashed by Taylor at various banks and check-cashing services. A Baltimore County police handwriting expert said it was Taylor's handwriting on the checks.
There was Peter Xanthakos, owner of a restaurant next door to the Print Shack, who testified that he saw Taylor standing outside the print shop about 6 a.m. the morning of the murder.
Another witness saw Masenior inside the shop about 8 a.m., standing at the front counter. But when a print shop employee arrived about 8:30 a.m., the doors were locked and no one responded to the employee's calls, according to testimony.
A fire department crew had to smash in the front door to gain entry to the building. Masenior was found lying face up, her face badly beaten, in a production room in the back of the shop.
The medical examiner later ruled she had been strangled.
An FBI expert testified that footprints found in the work area around the body, and one print on the victim's chest, came from the same style of boot worn by Taylor.
In her closing argument, Katy O'Donnell, Taylor's public defender, admitted that Taylor was "not the most reliable employee," that "evidence has proved that he took some checks," and "evidence proves he was cheating on his girlfriend."
But, O'Donnell said, those circumstances did not prove that Taylor murdered his boss. She asked the jury to look closely at the state's evidence.
She questioned Xanthakos' identification of Taylor, offered the alibi of Taylor's girlfriend, Monica Bailey, who said he did not leave the house that morning until after 8 a.m.
O'Donnell also criticized the supposed motive, saying it did not make sense that Taylor would kill for $1,600 in stolen checks. "It's not sufficient motive to kill," she said.
Cox countered by saying that O'Donnell was "blowing smoke."
Curtis Turner, a co-worker of Taylor's, testified that Taylor, on the day before the killing, had twice tried to give Masenior drinks laced with chemicals.
On the first occasion, Taylor fixed Masenior a cup of coffee with "a bluish green tint" to it "that smelled like bleach," Turner said. Masenior dumped the coffee out, he said.
During their investigation, police found green-colored rat poisoning in a Styrofoam cup, the residue, Cox said, of what Taylor had put in his boss' coffee.
Masenior herself apparently thought nothing of the coffee, saying it was probably because the coffee pot had not been properly cleaned, Turner said.
Another time that day, Turner testified, Taylor went out for drinks and returned with a bottle of apple juice that Masenior said "had a foul smell." She dumped that out, too, without drinking it, the witness said.