A Kentucky mother will spend the rest of her life behind bars after prosecutors said she killed her husband over a dispute about money — then took the lives of her two teenage daughters because she didn’t want them to live without a mother.
Courtney Taylor was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after entering an Alford plea to three counts of murder earlier this year, according to The Times Tribune. Under an Alford plea, Taylor has not admitted guilt but has acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her in the slayings of her husband, Larry Taylor, 56; and teenage daughters, Jessie Taylor, 18, and Jolee Taylor, 13.
The three family members were found in 2017 with gunshot wounds to the head, laying in their beds with the covers pulled up around them, local station WCYB reports.
Whitley County Sheriff deputies discovered the bodies after receiving a call to check on the home by a concerned family member. When the deputies arrived at the home, they found no response inside; however, after forcing their way inside they encountered Courtney, who was aiming a firearm in their direction, according to the local paper.
The deputies fired, shooting Courtney twice. The mom — who had worked as a school nurse before the slayings — had initially also been facing two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer for the incident with the deputies, but those charges were dropped as part of her plea agreement.
A Kentucky State Police detective testified in earlier court proceedings that Taylor had killed her husband after a $264,000 cash settlement she had received and deposited into an account in June had been quickly depleted, according to local station WKYT.
Taylor told police from her hospital bed in a 90-minute interview that the money had been from a worker’s compensation settlement she had received and had been in an account in her name only, according to The News Journal. She blamed her husband for allegedly squandering the money in a matter of months.
The police detective said Taylor wrote in a six-page letter discovered by investigators that she had decided to kill her two daughters because “she didn’t want them growing up without a mother,” WKYT reports.
She also told investigators that she had tried to take her own life.
After Taylor entered the Alford plea in February, Commonwealth Attorney Jackie Steele said that the victims’ family had been supportive of accepting the plea rather than go through a trial process — which could have resulted in the death penalty for Taylor. They understood, she said, that even if Taylor received the death penalty, she may still live out her natural life in prison before an execution would ever be carried out.
“The main thing that they wanted… was that she could never walk out of prison again,” Steele said at the time, according to The Times Tribune.
Steele also said she agreed to accept the Alford plea, in part, because Taylor had claimed that she couldn’t remember the shootings, The News Journal reports.
At the time the plea was entered, defense attorney Joanne Lynch said she hoped the plea would bring closure for those impacted by the slayings.
“This has been a long journey,” she said, according to The News Journal. “I think everyone, including Courtney, hopes that this gives everyone a sense of closure and allows people to have some peace.”
Judge Jeff Burdette handed down Taylor’s sentence Wednesday morning over a video conference.
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