BAKERSFIELD, CA - Up until this point, the mysterious death of Justin Taylor has received no media attention. The circumstances are bizarre, and Taylor's loved ones feel they may never have the answers they need to properly understand and grieve his death. All they have now is a puzzling, secretly recorded video of Taylor just hours before his badly burned body was found near a vineyard.
November 17 2017. Sheriff's deputies make a gruesome discovery in a desolate area outside of Arvin. A burned body in a field near Sandrini and North Wheeler Ridge Roads. At the time, investigators said they couldn't even tell if the body was male or female-and there was nothing to help them get an ID.
"It was devastating. I guess what would anybody's thought be. You can't believe it, you don't wanna believe it," said David Taylor.
Justin Taylor's father spoke to us from out of state. He remembers the moment clearly when he found out the body was that of his son's.
"They wouldn't look at it as a homicide until the tox reports came back," said David.
According to the coroner's office, Taylor died of acute methamphetamine intoxication. But the coroner's office can't say if the death was homicide, natural, accidental, or suicide.
David Taylor says the lack of acknowledgement of his son's death contributed to the family's pain: "It was just like he was nothing. Didn't exist. At the time this thing didn't even hit the news. It just was like he just vanished."
He recalls the moment when investigators told him his son's case was not a violent crime: "They were saying there was anything done wrong, other than he was brought out there and set on fire...and I said the detectives...What do you mean that's nota crime? And he said well it's a misdemeanor."
Detectives acknowledged Taylor obviously didn't dump his own body and set it on fire. But, they've explained to the family that if they did find out who did it, the person could be charged only with a minor offense.
We saw a similar scenario last month when a man was booked on a charge of concealing an accidental death, after he told police he helped burn and bury the body of another man he said died from an overdose.
However, the DA's office ended up filing two felony charges against for conspiracy and accessory. A second man was also arrested for the death and booked on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
"There's no reason, no acceptable reason for somebody to take that body out there and set it on fire..It's hard on the family...We don't understand," said David Taylor. "I want them caught. I would like to see it investigated...and treat him (Justin) like he was a human, not like he was some dog."
Taylor's family acknowledges the 30-year old dabbled in drugs, but they say the day of his death, something was off with their son.
On the morning of the 17, Taylor arrived to his friend's home in a Range Rover. It wasn't his car, and he wouldn't give a straight answer who's car it was. She felt his behavior was strange, so she took a secret recording of the car. In that video, David can be heard talking about hanging out with members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. This clearly perplexes his friend taking the secret video, who also notices a Hells Angels hat in the passenger seat of the vehicle.
His friend who took the secret recording told his family she did it because she felt something was off that day. Now his family wonders if her instinct was right.
They say they don't know if Taylor was really hanging out with anyone from the motorcycle gang. They'd never heard anything like that from him and he didn't own a motorcycle himself.
Again, Justin Taylor's death is not being investigated as a homicide, but his family says they need answers. They want to know who burned his body and dumped him like trash?
If you have any information, you're urged to call KCSO at 861-3110.
Or you can remain anonymous by calling secret witness 322-4040.
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