A mystery, 36 years later
Accused murderer on loose
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
OCALA - Thirty-six years ago, on Jan. 8, 1977, a man was fatally shot in the head while driving along U.S. 27 about 18 miles west of Ocala. A companion was injured.
Three years later, the accused gunman was arrested, released from jail on bond — and dropped out of sight.
The FBI believes William "Clay" Claybourne Taylor of Chattanooga, Tenn. was the triggerman. As the crime's anniversary passed on Tuesday, Taylor remained on the lam — and on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
The gunshot pierced a 1976 Buick's rear window and instantly killed 64-year-old Walter H. Scott, of Archer, according to reports.
A car had pulled alongside Scott's car driving west toward Williston on U.S. 27 when a single shot struck him in the back of the head. Scott was a retired Immigration and Naturalization Service official.
The car then veered off the road and into a stand of pine trees. Suddenly, a suspect wearing a mask appeared from the swampy scrubland and approached the back of the car, reports said.
The suspect reportedly pointed a .25-caliber pistol at passengers and shot one of them, former Williston Mayor Eugene T. Bailey, three times: once in the face and twice in the chest and stomach area, reports said.
Also in the car were two other men, William Gilreath, 73, and William Harris, 66. They escaped unharmed, got to the highway and flagged down a truck driver who took them to Williston.
The four men and their wives had enjoyed a night of restaurant hopping in Ocala — a weekly tradition — and were on their way home when the shooting occurred, reports said.
Bailey survived what authorities believed was an assassination attempt. He told Star-Banner reporters, in a story published on March 9, 1977, that he did not fear for his safety.
"I'll go out at night if I want to because I don't believe the killer was after me," Bailey said at the time. "When I get well I'm going to do some investigating myself."
The 77-year-old businessman with a reported $2.5 million estate told reporters that he was "mystified" that someone would try to kill him and didn't think he was the target of the attack.
On May 16, 1980, a Marion County grand jury indicted three men in connection with the Scott murder and Bailey shooting: Ray Taylor, a former Williston attorney; his brother, Clay,; and an Alabama man, Paul Allen.
Ray Taylor, the older brother of the alleged triggerman, was a struggling attorney in Williston who allegedly plotted to kill Bailey and then represent the Bailey family estate and collect hefty legal fees, according to reports and news accounts.
Records indicated that Taylor expected to collect up to $200,000 in legal fees from the Bailey family as the family's attorney and executor of Bailey's will.
It was believed that Taylor was friendly with Bailey's son, Tommy, and had rented office space from Bailey, who had several business interests in the area before he was mayor of Williston.
After the murder case had gone cold for nearly two years, Taylor moved to Tennessee, where he became a successful prosecuting attorney and sent several alleged felons to prison, according to reports.
But after the Marion County grand jury issued its indictments, Taylor was arrested in Tennessee and transported back to Marion County, where he was convicted in 1980 as the plot's chief planner.
Allen, the alleged driver of the car from which the fatal blast was shot, testified against Taylor in exchange for a manslaughter conviction and was sentenced to 15 years of probation, according to a story published in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal in October 1980. Allen was also believed to have taken part in the planning of the shooting.
But Clay Taylor had eluded justice. He was arrested in Tennessee, posted a $20,000 personal recognizance bond, and was ordered to return to Ocala, according to the FBI.
But to this day has not surrendered in Ocala.
According to an FBI flier, he was subsequently charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
The FBI lists Taylor's occupations as dance instructor, trumpet player, convenience store clerk, keypunch operator, painter, welder and advertising worker.
The agency said it believes Taylor sometimes wears a mustache and is a heavy drinker who frequents adult bookstores.
Contact Vishal Persaud at 867-4065, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @vishalpersaud.
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