Parents still seek truth in '90 death of their daughter Police maintain shooting was suicide

October 04, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

Anna Hawkins knelt one recent day to brush away the dirt an debris from the granite slab that covers her daughter's grave at Glen Haven cemetery in Glen Burnie.

"I died the day Jenny died," the 60-year-old woman said as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "I wouldn't be sorry if they laid me here tomorrow."

Jennifer Hawkins Taylor was 23 when her husband found her dead from a shotgun blast to the chest the night of May 26, 1990.

Anne Arundel county police said it was suicide, plain and simple. But Mrs. Taylor's parents insist it was a cold-blooded killing and have spent more than two years, mortgaged their house for $120,000 and run all their credit cards to the limit in a vain attempt to prove it.

"I won't rest until I know who murdered Jenny," her father, Bill Hawkins, has insisted repeatedly.

His youngest daughter was a drug informant, according to internal county police documents. Mr. Hawkins contends she knew too much and that police did a slip-shod investigation to protect their other informants. They closed the case in 45 minutes, before a detective ever came to the scene, he complains.

But a state prosecutor's investigation found nothing improper in the police probe of Mrs. Taylor's death.

And the police say they have plenty of evidence that points to suicide. Gunpowder was on Mrs. Taylor's left palm when they found her body sprawled on the floor next to a gun in her apartment on Cloverhill Drive in Pasadena.

She had threatened suicide several times in the past, and the scars from one of those attempts still trailed across her arms. Her life, they said, was plagued by drugs and prostitution.

"She had 101 reasons to kill herself," said Donald Hauf, the homicide detective involved in the case.

"It's hard for people to deal with the fact that their child did something like that," said Sgt. Mark Howes, former head of homicide. "We have cases like that all the time."

Out of control

Detective Hauf probed Mrs. Taylor's background after her father raised questions about the circumstances of her death and learned of her descent from middle class security to a maelstrom of drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Jennifer Hawkins grew up on Swift Road in Pasadena. She played little league baseball for the Lake Shore Spartans when she was 10.

But by the time she was 13, she was selling jewelry on the streets of Brooklyn Park and running with a wild crowd, according to Joe Mansfield, a man found guilty of murder who befriended her at the time.

"One of the boys she was running with was scum," said Mr. Mansfield, 44, who said he was in the precious metals business. "It was a crowd that was doing drugs and breaking into places."

She and Mr. Mansfield became such close friends that Jennifer visited his mother and ran errands for her while he served five years in prison for the murder and for a third degree sex offense involving a teen-aged girl in Baltimore County.

In 1987, when she was 20, Jennifer married John Taylor, and for the next three years, her life spun out of control.

Internal police documents record three suicide attempts in those years.

Once, she disappeared for three days and later said she tried to kill herself by drinking paint thinner. Another time, she said she tried to slash her wrists after she was raped at a cocaine party in an Annapolis motel room. She showed her husband the marks on her arms.

The third episode, in August 1989, came after the couple had been separated for two months. Mrs. Taylor told narcotics Detective Ed White she planned to jump off a building because she was "in search of peace," and had been abusing drugs and working as a prostitute.

The Taylors reconciled in November and were living in the apartment on Cloverhill Road. Mrs. Taylor was working as a drug informant, according to county police documents.

Six months later, their marriage was rocky again and the Taylors were talking of separating.

A shotgun blast

Mr. Taylor said in an interview he had gone to a nearby convenience store to cash winning lottery tickets the night his wife died. When he returned about 11:40 p.m., he could smell gun smoke. Ozzy Osbourne was playing on the stereo, singing "Closing My Eyes Forever."

His wife was "looking right at me," Mr. Taylor recalled. "She was laying on her right side, and her head was tilted toward me."

An hour after Mr. Taylor found his wife's body, Detective Hauf was awakened from a sound sleep by a phone call from Sgt.

Cleveland Smith, one of the night shift supervisors at Anne Arundel's Eastern District Station.

She was lying on her back between the living room and the bedroom of the three-room apartment with a two-inch hole just below her breasts, Sgt. Smith said. Her husband's 12-gauge shotgun was on the floor beside her along with a spent shell casing. A live shell was in the gun's breech.

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