Harboring strongly felt racial grievances and angry that maintenance workers had not repaired a broken door in his Wilkinsburg apartment, Ronald Taylor, 39, reportedly yelled “you’re all white trash, racist pigs” before setting his apartment on fire and going on a shooting spree in two nearby fast-food restaurants on March 1, 2000.
Targeting white victims, Taylor killed maintenance worker John Kroll, 55, as he left his 1208 Wood St. apartment building, and Joseph Healy, 71, and Emil Sanielevici, 20, in nearby fast food restaurants. Two others, Steve Bostard and Richard Clinger, were injured.
Taylor then moved in and out of a series of apartments and offices before taking several white hostages in a medical office. He was encountered by police there. After pointing his weapon at police and at himself while raging about his racist mistreatment, Taylor surrendered.
All of Taylor’s victims were white. Healy was a former priest. Sanielevici was a University of Pittsburgh student. Kroll worked with John DeWitt, with whom Taylor had argued immediately prior to beginning his shooting spree.
In Taylor’s apartment, where he lived alone and unemployed, police found a suicide note and a lengthy statement about the debilitating effects of his mental illness, his mistreatment by the mental health care system, and his hatred of whites, Jews, police, and others. Taylor, who grew up in the Hill District and had no prior legal issues, had received in-patient mental health treatment in the recent past. Friends and neighbors described him as quiet and well-liked.
After initially being ruled incompetent to stand trial and committed to Mayview State Hospital, Taylor was tried by a jury of eleven white jurors and one black juror. Facing overwhelming eyewitness and physical evidence, Taylor’s mental health defense failed when even his mental health expert testified he was able to form criminal intent. Taylor was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder on November 8, 2001, and sentenced to death two days later.
His conviction and death sentence were affirmed on appeal on June 21, 2005 (Commonwealth v. Taylor, 583 Pa. 170), though the court left open the opportunity for future litigation over Taylor’s mental health in light of changing United States Supreme Court standards on that issue.
Ronald Taylor remains in prison at SCI-Greene under a sentence of death.