Taylor gets 17 year term

By Katherine Wartell

A former K-State student convicted of rape and voluntary manslaughter was sentenced to 214 months, or roughly 17 years, in prison Friday in Riley County District Court.

District Judge Paul Miller sentenced Justin Taylor, 25, to 155 months for the 2010 rape of a 57-year-old Manhattan woman and 59 months for the voluntary manslaughter of Kevin Cockrum, who was beaten to death in Aggieville in August 2011. The sentences will be served consecutively and Taylor was ordered to pay approximately $6,390 in restitution.

The sentence complied with the recommendations made by the prosecution in Taylor’s April plea deal, where his original charge of second degree murder was reduced to voluntary manslaughter. 

Before Taylor’s sentencing, Lauren Williams, Cockrum’s girlfriend, and Elizabeth Parker, the woman Taylor raped, made statements to the court.

Williams, who dated Cockrum for approximately two years, told the court that, “the world has lost a great man,” someone, she said, who risked his life as a combat medic to save others.

Cockrum died of extensive head trauma after he was knocked unconscious by Levertis Horne, an acquaintance of Taylor’s whose own charges in the incident were dropped, and was subsequently hit over the head twice by Taylor. The incident occurred in Aggieville after Horne reportedly shouted an expletive at the woman Cockrum was walking with.

Williams reminded Taylor that Cockrum’s five children have lost their father. “I hope a lesson is learned in all this,” she said.

Parker voluntarily made her identity known in order, she said, to enable other victims to feel more comfortable doing so as well. Addressing Taylor, Parker said, “My life changed forever and you are responsible for that. I don’t feel sorry for you or any pain that you are going through.”

In an earlier hearing, Assistant County Attorney Barry Disney said Taylor attacked Parker while she was jogging near Denholm Drive in the early morning of June 25, 2010.

She told the court that Taylor pressed his hands against her mouth and nose so that she couldn’t breathe. “That morning, I thought I was going to die,” she said, his actions leaving her with a legacy of a woman who would be remembered for being raped and murdered, instead of being remembered for the woman she is.

She told Taylor that he made her a prisoner of fear, but said, “In spite of all this, you have not won. You have not beaten me.”

She expressed her gratitude for the support of her family, who stood with her in court as she finished reading her statement. “You will not have freedom for a very long time because we wouldn’t give up,” she said. “I am finally free.”

Larry McRell, Taylor’s attorney, told the court that Taylor is genuinely and sincerely sorry and that is why he entered the plea of no contest to both counts. “He knows he’s going away for a long time,” McRell said.

Taylor faced those seated in the courtroom and said that he was truly thankful to have the opportunity to address them face-to-face.

He said that he was ashamed of his actions and that he has prayed that his victims and their families will have the strength to overcome the consequences of them.

“With all my heart, I continue to pray that one day you may forgive me for what I’ve done,” he said.

In his sentencing, Judge Miller said Taylor was to at least be given credit for not dragging those involved through a prolonged trial.

In a statement to the media, McRell said he would like to acknowledge Taylor’s victims and their families and express his heartfelt sorrow.

Williams said she did not believe justice had been served completely with all the evidence, but that she keeps Cockrum’s memory alive with a Facebook page dedicated to him.

Parker said that for a long time she kept her story quiet because of embarrassment, but that, with the help of her therapist, she has realized that Taylor’s actions were not her fault.

Parker said she hopes her story also helps reform the DNA process in identifying rapists in Kansas, saying she had initial frustrations with the length of time it took to process Taylor’s DNA following the rape.

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