WATERLOO | One of this city's -- and arguably the state's -- most notorious killers has died.
James Michael "T-Bone" Taylor, 60, died Tuesday at University Hospitals in Iowa City. He had been transferred there from the Iowa State Penitentiary, where he was serving two life sentences for the killing of two Waterloo police officers in 1981, Wayne Rice and Michael Hoing.
Prison officials said he died of natural causes due to complications from an aortic aneurism.
Although the incident happened more than 32 years ago, the mention of Taylor's name and the names of the officers whose lives he claimed stirs memories for Waterloo Police Capt. Tim Pillack and former sheriff Mike Kubik.
"Whenever those names are brought up -- Hoing and Rice -- you always think about that name and that week," Pillack said. "It brings back a lot."
Pillack has been on the Waterloo Police force since 1979. The day Hoing and Rice were killed was the last time any Waterloo Police officer died in the line of duty. Looking at photographs from the day, Pillack pointed out people who have long ago left the department.
"I think that's Bill Hilton," he said, pointing to a photograph from the crime scene.
The department honors the two officers with a memorial service every year. Pillack said the ongoing memorials are a way for officers who weren't with the department to reflect and learn from that day.
"It's a reminder you need to be prepared when you hit the street and make sure you stay safe," Pillack said. "Any call, it can happen, any time."
That's a lesson the other active officers besides Pillack have to imagine. Pillack only has to recall.
"It was a hell of a week," he said.
Of Taylor's death, Pillack said, "He killed two Waterloo police officers, was sentenced to life in prison and that's where it ended."
In 1981, Kubik was a sergeant with the sheriff’s office. He was also shift commander the day his colleagues died at Taylor’s hand, a period he can recall vividly.
"I remember everything from that, the funerals, taking him over to the jail. … Then I was in charge of the group that had to guard him during the trial, so I was over in Council Bluffs,” Kubik said.
"I was around him a lot,” he added.
Being near Taylor, though, was more a function of keeping him safe, not the public.
"We were guarding him because of threats. And then we had to make sure somebody didn’t do something stupid in the courtroom,” Kubik said.
Since he knew the men who died, the assignment was tough.
"I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult, but your job takes over and that’s what you do,” Kubik said. "We were all professionals. Work comes first. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
It was still very warm about 11:30 p.m. July 12, 1981, when a woman called police headquarters with a complaint. She'd called three times before about the loud music at a neighboring house and was again calling police, wanting them to get it turned down.
The police dispatcher waited until third-shift officers Wayne Rice, 27, and Michael Hoing, 28, finished up on another call and then about 11:45 p.m. sent them to 1027 Franklin St. They arrived several minutes later.
Testimony at Taylor's trial revealed that Rice and Hoing asked the people at the home to turn down the music and told dispatch as they walked away that if they had to come back, they'd be making arrests.
As they neared their squad car, someone at the party jeered the officers. Moments later, Hoing came on the radio.
"Get another car over here. We're going to (arrest) at least one."
Trial testimony showed that before any other squad car could get there, there was a fight between the partygoers and the two officers.
Rice was knocked to the ground after being struck in the head by a chair. Taylor, one of the partygoers, grabbed Rice's .357 Magnum revolver from his holster and shot the officer once in the side at close range. Taylor then turned the gun on Hoing, who was scuffling with another man on the top of the porch. He fired four shots at Hoing, striking him three times.
Within moments, other officers arrived at the scene, calling into their radios "two officers down." Hoing and Rice died a short time later.
Taylor fled the scene with Rice's gun, and it triggered a massive five-day manhunt. Taylor later told authorities that he first went to the Waterloo home he shared with a woman, then went to another woman's house seeking money and a car. In both cases, he told the women he had shot the officers.
Taylor left in the borrowed car, driving south, reportedly intending to go to St. Louis. But the vehicle was found abandoned at 4:10 a.m. that morning just south of La Porte City on U.S. Highway 218.
Hundreds of officers from around the state conducted a farm by farm search of buildings and cornfields in the La Porte City area trying to find Taylor. Residents throughout the county armed themselves in fear and called in reported sightings of Taylor. As the week went by, and the city mourned the loss of the two officers, authorities began to believe he had slipped out of the area and was in another state.
It was during the frantic search on July 14 when the area lost its third officer, Black Hawk County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. William Mullikin, 29. He was a passenger in a sheriff's squad car that collided with another car at the intersection of County Road D-46 and Ansborough Avenue south of Waterloo.
Three deputies were responding to a report of a shot fired in the area being searched for Taylor. The unmarked squad car, driven by Deputy Lt. John Sewick, was struck by a car driven by 72-year-old Gertrude Vance as she turned left in front of the officers.
Sewick and passenger Deputy Mark Johnson were both hospitalized after the accident, which also killed Gertrude's husband, Robert.
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Former Sheriff Mike Kubik, who was a sergeant at the time, remembers when word came out about the accident.
"Everybody just stopped what they were doing," he recalls.
But as had been the case all week, professionalism took over.
"If you talk to anyone, they aren't going to say it didn't faze them. But I guess we're taught to hold some of that back. We still had a job to do. The training took over. Everyone went back to doing what they had to do," Kubik said. "It made us more determined than ever to catch him. We knew we were not going to give up until we found him."
On Friday, July 17, hopes that Taylor was still in the area were dimming. Most of the officers involved in the search took time off to attend Mullikin's funeral in rural Cedar Falls.
Waterloo Police officers Larry and Barb Coffin, Mark Shoars, Tom Shimp, William Haigh and Chuck Wolf volunteered to work patrol that day for the city and county. Sgt. Robert Shafer was the patrol supervisor. There were two officers to each car, one carrying a Waterloo police radio and the other carrying a county sheriff's radio.
It was about the lunch hour and most of the officers were either stopping to eat or in line for a quick fast-food lunch when the call came.
Two women went inside a vacant La Porte City home, preparing it for renters, when they were confronted by a man with a gun. Both screamed and fled the home but were chased by the man, who knocked one of them to the ground as he grabbed her purse.
The man was Taylor, who later told police he had been hiding out in the vacant home for two days. The house was located only a short distance from where Taylor had abandoned the car four days earlier.
Taylor stole the woman's car and sped off, eventually losing control of the vehicle on the Brandon curve. Police were notified about the gun-toting man and took off for La Porte City.
"Everybody headed there," Larry Coffin recalls. State Trooper Marv Messerschmidt was the first to arrive. The car carrying Barb Coffin and Mark Shoars pulled up next.
"I remember when we got into town, people were pointing us in the direction," Barb Coffin recalls. "We went around that S-curve, and then made a left and here was the car in the ditch upside down. A farmer had seen him get out and run into a field and hadn't seen him come out."
When all of the officers arrived, Shafer ordered that soybean field surrounded to cut off any attempt at escape. Messerschmidt then took his shotgun and binoculars and moved row by row down the field.
"The wind was blowing so hard against the beans. We couldn't hear to talk to one another, and we had all different radios so we couldn't talk to each other," Barb Coffin remembers.
"As Marv was working his way to the east row by row, I happened to see him point his shotgun at T-Bone as he was on his knees," Larry Coffin said. He tried to get Shimp's attention but couldn't because of the wind. Finally he just whistled and took off running.
Barb recalls that all of a sudden she saw Larry, her husband, take off running up the field. "Then Shimp started running at them. Shoars passed me running. Then I saw him stand up," Barb Coffin recalls of her first glimpse of Taylor.
Coffin quickly put his cuffs on Taylor, then Shimp also cuffed him.
The officers walked Taylor out of the field, all under the watchful eyes of a crowd of La Porte City residents who had gathered to watch the capture of the most wanted man in Black Hawk County history.
The officers decided to get Taylor into protective custody as quickly as possible. With Shimp at the wheel and Haigh next to him, and Barb and Larry seated on either side of Taylor in the back seat, they raced back to Waterloo. But word had spread quickly of the capture, and law officers, who had been at Mullikin's funeral, quietly left the service and headed toward the capture scene.
The officers remember having to dodge squad cars that were racing toward them as they drove back to Waterloo.
"We were already gone (from the scene), and in fact they were in such a hurry to get there, they ran us off the road," Larry Coffin said.
They'll never forget the line of cars and people that came to the roadway and stopped as they rushed Taylor to City Hall.
Taylor was taken into police headquarters and changed into a jail jumpsuit. Arrangements were made to get him to the county courthouse across the street to make an initial court appearance.
Kubik drove a vehicle up to the back door of the station. Taylor was whisked inside it, and then the vehicle was surrounded by up to 20 law enforcement officers as they jogged with the vehicle across the street to the back door of the old county jail. Hundreds of people wanting to catch a glimpse of Taylor were kept well back from the vehicle.
Bond was set at $2 million by District Associate Judge George Stigler.
Taylor was put on trial quickly at the request of his attorney, Alvin Davidson. The case was moved to Pottawattamie County on a change of venue before Judge Peter Van Metre.
Jim Bauch, who helped County Attorney Dave Correll prosecute the case, said the trial was moved to the federal courthouse in Council Bluffs for added security. The night after the jury was selected, law officers rebuilt the front porch of 1027 Franklin St. in the courtroom. They had taken the porch apart board by board and then rebuilt it to use as evidence.
"It was a very chilling sight to see where the deaths had occurred," Bauch said.
Taylor was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and received two life sentences. Joseph Phams, who had attended the party and struck Rice with the chair, was tried a year later and convicted of murder. His brother, Johnny Phams, who had wrestled with Hoing, received a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter under a plea agreement that he testify against his brother and Taylor.
Taylor was serving his life sentences at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. He had been transferred due to disciplinary problems to a state prison in Connecticut but was moved back to Iowa after he gave an apparently false interview to a Des Moines reporter that things were "sweet" for him at the Connecticut prison.
The interview, in which he said he had married and received conjugal visits, turned out to be a lie, but it upset so many people that Gov. Terry Branstad ordered him returned to Iowa to serve his term.
In a another new development, the state trooper who captured Taylor -- Marv Messerschmidt -- also died this month at age 82.
Regional Editor Dennis Magee contributed to this article.