Parents: Police botched son's homicide investigation - CBS46 News


Parents: Police botched son's homicide investigation

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Tears fall from Veronica Taylor's eyes as she wipes dirt from an image of her son engraved on his tombstone in Cartersville. She and her husband, Rob, say grieving the loss of their only boy has been made more difficult because they say detectives with the Bartow County Sheriff's Department botched the investigation.

On Dec. 29, 2010, Rob Jr.,13, was visiting a friend's house when he was shot in the face with a shotgun. The 14-year-old friend, whom CBS Atlanta News has chosen not to name, admitted to authorities that the gun fired while he was showing it to Rob. He said it was an accident.

Lead detective Sgt. Jonathan Rogers believed the suspect's account and closed the case.

Veronica Taylor said Rogers told her the morning after the shooting that no charges would be filed because it was an accident.

The Taylors later found text messages on their son's phone which led them to believe the boys may have had an argument.

Forty minutes before Rob died, his phone shows he sent a message which read, "I didn't do anything though." It was followed three minutes later with the text, "Plz don't plz plz plz." And 30 minutes before Rob died, his phone shows he typed out, "I didn't do anything though."

Rob Taylor said he tried to show investigators the text messages, but he was brushed off.

Rogers admitted to CBS Atlanta News that he did not examine the cell phone or conduct recorded interviews with any witnesses to learn about the boys' relationship. He said he interviewed witnesses on the scene but did not question the girls with whom Rob was communicating before he died.

Despite protocol, the sheriff's department did not submit the case to the district attorney for possible prosecution. T. Joseph Campbell, former district attorney of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit, said he did not know about the shooting until the Taylors asked him to look at the file in 2012. "The ball was dropped," said Campbell, who would not indicate who was at fault.

"[Investigators] knew the family, they took the boy's word as an accident and that's where they're going. They never want to hear anything more about it," said Veronica Taylor.

A search on Facebook revealed Rogers befriended the suspect's parents. He said that happened after the shooting.

After prosecutors learned of the shooting, they charged the suspect with involuntary manslaughter. CBS Atlanta News has learned the Bartow County Sheriff's Department did not cooperate with prosecutors who wanted the text messages investigated.

One of the witnesses prosecutors asked to be interviewed was the girl to whom Rob sent the bizarre texts before his death. Rogers told CBS Atlanta News the camera in the interrogation room was broken, so neither of the interviews she offered was recorded.

Sheriff Millsap declined repeated requests for an interview but provided the following statement:

"Your portrayal of the investigation of the death of Robert Taylor III… is incorrect. The shooting was investigated thoroughly and there was no evidence of the shooting being anything other than a tragic accident. The parents of the victim indicated to the Bartow County Sheriff's Office at that time they agreed it was an accident. Two years later, they began pressing for homicide charges and requested the case be reviewed. The case was reviewed by the Bartow County District Attorney who recommended it be filed in juvenile court. The case was filed in juvenile court in August of 2012 and has been in the hands of that court's prosecutor since that time. Any questions on the status of the prosecution should be directed to that court."

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