A Florida man is charged with first-degree murder after a brutal beating during which cops say he used his fists, an aluminum bat and at least one skillet.
Winter Haven’s Christopher Taylor, 30, sits in Polk County jail on charges of first-degree murder, perjury and tampering with physical evidence. He is being held without bond on the murder charge.
Taylor lives with Kristina Sluss, 36, in an apartment above his 21-year-old brother Gary Taylor’s apartment. Now, all three have their own spaces in the Polk County Jail, Sluss and Gary Taylor each on charges of tampering with physical evidence and being an accessory after the fact.
Sluss’ bond is $251,000. Gary Taylor’s is $76,000.
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According to the arrest report, the mini-mystery that ended with the trio in jail started Feb. 12, when a citrus company worker found Douglas Bowling’s body in a grove. Six Walmart bags covered Bowling’s head. On that head, the medical examiner found seven L-shaped lacerations — five on top left of Bowling’s head, one on his forehead, one by his left eye.
Also, Bowling’s right hand had been cut off at the wrist. But the medical examiner determined that happened after Bowling was dead.
Bowling, 47, had been on probation for fraud since December after renting an LG 4K TV and two Samsung cellphones earlier in 2017, but making only a fraction of the payments. His arrest report listed a home address, but the Polk County Sheriff’s Office says he’d recently been living in homeless camps around Winter Haven. He rode a bike that was a rolling pile of parts.
Investigators learned two of Bowling’s associates were Sluss and Christopher Taylor. When Polk sheriff’s detectives visited the couple, Taylor said he hadn’t seen Bowling since Feb. 10. He learned Bowling died Feb. 14, third-hand from his brother Gary who found out from a friend.
The report says investigators noticed a bike behind the building. Taylor said it had been there since they moved in four weeks before. When investigators pointed out the bike didn’t look like it had been outside for four weeks, Chris shifted his story — he bought the bike from Bowling for $10 on Feb. 9 and gave it to his brother. Taylor claimed he lied out of fear.
A search of Christopher Taylor’s Kia, which had South Carolina license plates, turned up grass in the grill resembling the grass in the grove where Bowling’s body had been found. Also, the report says, a “very small smear” of blood was on the outside of the driver’s door as well as blood inside the driver’s door handle.
The mess inside the car included a bunch of Walmart bags, gift cards and receipts. Cops say the markings and lot numbers on those Walmart bags matched the bags over the head.
Then, sheriff’s detectives interviewed Sluss and Gary Taylor. Each said Bowling came to Sluss and Christopher Taylor’s apartment the morning of Feb. 10. Kristina said she was still in bed in the living room area of the studio apartment when she heard Bowling in the kitchen. He repeatedly asked Christopher to take him to the bank despite Christopher’s repeated “No’s.”
Kristina observed Christopher with a skillet in his right hand and he was hitting the victim. He hit the victim with the skillet until it broke. He threw it down and grabbed another one.
From Christopher Taylor’s arrest report.
After she heard a “thud,” Bowling disappeared behind the bar-counter separating the kitchen from the living room.
“Kristina observed Christopher with a skillet in his right hand and he was hitting the victim,” the arrest report reads. “He hit the victim with the skillet until it broke. He threw it down and grabbed another one.”
Sluss said Christopher was yelling, “Nobody ----- with my family!”
Christopher told Gary to go downstairs and get his aluminum bat. When Gary returned, he took the bat, then offered Gary revenge on Bowling for hacking into Gary’s phone. Gary declined.
“Kristina said she heard a ‘ping,’” the arrest report reads. “Christopher was now hitting the victim with the aluminum bat.”
After losing consciousness, Bowling woke up and tried to escape. Christopher Taylor tackled him and pounded him back into unconsciousness with his fists, according to the report. When Bowling came back around, he was crying so loudly, neighbors came into the driveway. Gary told Christopher he kept them at bay by saying Sluss and his brother were fighting.
Gary told police he thought Christopher put a belt around Bowling’s neck and strangled him. Christopher yelled an order for trash bags and grocery bags.
Gary brought two big trash bags and grocery bags from under the sink. The Taylor boys put Bowling in the trash bags, then moved him to the bathtub. According to the report, Gary told police Sluss helped move Bowling’s body and wash it off with bleach. Christopher told Kristina he took a sick, twisted, lying, conniving drug user off the street.
They left the body in the bathtub and went to dinner at Gary Taylor Sr.’s house. When they returned after sundown, the Polk Sheriff’s Office says, they dumped Bowling’s body in the grove.