Many unanswered questions after Ocala teacher committed suicide

first assembly christian school, ocala news, sexual abuse, teacher commits suicide, topamax
Joel Ken Taylor [Deceased]
Ocala, Florida — First Assembly Christian School (FACS), a local private school, was left looking for answers on Wednesday after one of their third-grade teachers committed suicide following allegations of sexual abuse on his stepdaughter.

The girl alleges that her stepfather had been abusing her on and off for several years. She said that at the age of seven (7), her stepfather introduced her to “porn.” She said her stepfather played a video that depicted a girl performing oral sex on a man. She alleges that over the course of the next several years, she performed oral sex on her stepfather multiple times; mainly when no one was home.

The girl told investigators that it most recently happened when her mom was away on business.

After being asked, Ocala Post investigated these allegations of sexual abuse. Information was gathered from the alleged victim’s family, friends, police reports, and the probable cause affidavit.

The following is a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the suicide.

On October 13, 2014, Ocala Police Officer, Dale Parish, responded to Munroe Regional Medical Center in reference to allegations of sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl. The RN on duty reported that the girl was recently brought in under a Baker Act because the girl claimed she had attempted to kill herself. The girl told the RN her stepfather, Joel Ken Taylor, 52, had been sexually abusing her for the last several years and that was why she allegedly tried to harm herself. Upon hearing this, hospital staff asked Taylor, who was at the hospital with his wife and daughter, to leave the immediate area. OPD was then notified.

The girl alleged that her stepfather showed her a pornographic film one time when she was seven (7). She said that is when the molestation involving oral sex began.

The girl stated that on Sunday, October 12, 2014, Taylor had abused her while her mother was in Texas on business and her sister was at work.

According to family members, Taylor normally accompanied his wife on all of her business trips; however, on this particular weekend, his stepdaughter was grounded for lying and being disrespectful to her parents.

According to the police report, during the interview process, the victim changed her story several times. In one instance, reports state that she changed the day of incident from Sunday to Saturday, but gave similar accounts of the incident. She said she changed it to Saturday because they had a normal Sunday of watching TV after church, and they had even ordered a pizza. Her mother also returned home on Sunday.

The victim told the officer that she woke up around midnight on October 12, 2014, because she had a bad dream about her own funeral.

The girl stated that when she woke up she took approximately 20, 25mg Topamax pills (a pill used to treat seizures and migraine headaches), along with half a bottle of 100 count, 220mg Aleve. She stated that once she took the pills she was up all night. She later changed her story while being interviewed by a second investigator, and said that she took the entire bottle of Aleve.

Officer Parish reported, “While interviewing the girl she did not show any signs of emotional distress, she talked about the incident with ease, and did not shed a tear. She seemed to be happy, and was smiling during the interview.”

According to reports, when the officer asked her about specific dates and times, she could not provide times or even approximate dates. She then claimed Taylor last molested her three (3) to four (4) weeks ago. She went on to say that Taylor “grinded” on her while he was naked. She later changed her story to Taylor being fully clothed.

Officer Parish then explained the ramifications of providing false statements or making a false police report. Officer Parish then asked if Taylor had done anything to any of her other sisters or anyone else, to which she stated, “No.”

During this time, Taylor and his wife were kept separated at the hospital. After interviewing the girl, Officer Parish interviewed the girl’s mother.

She stated the allegations were a complete shock to her. She said everything had been fine, and that her daughter had transferred from FACS to Fort King Middle for the 2014-2015 school year, and since the change, her daughter had been acting out. She stated that her daughter was making friends with less than desirable people, and she had been hanging out with a girl whom she and Taylor had caught in many lies. She had recently told her daughter that she did not want her associating with her new friend, and because of her behavior, she was forbidden to talk to her friend. This occurred on the weekend of the alleged sexual abuse.

The mother stated she had dropped her daughter off at Fort King Middle that morning, and she was later contacted by the school and told her daughter had been placed under a Baker Act.

The mother also stated that her daughter might be acting out due to recently starting her menstrual cycle during the summer.

Officer Parish then interviewed the victim’s sister, who stated that Taylor had never tried anything and was shocked at the allegations. She corroborated her mother’s information regarding her sister’s recent behavior.

After interviewing the victim’s sister, Officer Parish again spoke with the RN who handled the victim’s care. The RN informed Officer Parish that the victim’s toxicology report showed no signs of elevated levels, which would indicate she had taken a large amount of Aleve as the victim had previously stated.

Detective Rowe then responded to the hospital and took over the investigation.

Detective Rowe interviewed the victim and she stated that her parents were not happy with her about her new friends, and she had argued with them the day before. Unaware of the results of her toxicology report, she told the detective that she had taken an entire bottle of Aleve instead of half, and at least 20 Topamax pills. She said she did it because of what her stepfather had done to her.

The victim told investigators that she wanted her mom to divorce her stepfather and she wanted him to move out.

Detective Rowe then interviewed Taylor. Taylor also told the detective he was completely shocked by the allegations.

Taylor told Detective Rowe that his stepdaughter’s behavior had dramatically changed after being pulled from FACS and placed into Fort King Middle School.

Taylor said his stepdaughter began hanging out with a group of friends that he and his wife believed were a bad influence. Taylor stated that her new friends, one in particular, would tell lies so she could spend more time at their home with his stepdaughter. Taylor also claimed the friend gave one of their neighbors the middle finger and got into a verbal argument with them. Taylor stated that his stepdaughter had been getting into a lot of trouble recently, and they had to speak with her several times about her behavior. Taylor said she was refusing to do chores and wouldn’t listen.

Taylor told Detective Rowe that he had absolutely not been involved in any sexual activity with his stepdaughter and was completely surprised by the accusations.

Detective Rowe asked if he would be willing to take a polygraph to prove his truthfulness, to which Taylor agreed.

When Taylor learned of the allegations against him, he himself notified the school where he taught third grade. The school immediately removed him from his teaching position pending the outcome of an investigation.

On October 14, 2014, Detective Rowe was contacted by Taylor’s other stepdaughter, who resided out of town, after learning of the allegations.

Friends and family members told Ocala Post this other stepdaughter disliked Taylor because he was very strict, and liked to control everything.

She told Detective Rowe that she only visited approximately once a month, but noticed a change in her sister’s behavior. She stated that she previously lived with Taylor, but he was too controlling, and her sister would do whatever he told her to do. She said she believed that her sister’s behavior was because of Taylor. She stated that she was never touched by Taylor, but believed her sister might have been. She stated that she felt her sister would be better off with her biological father.

However, the victim described her biological father as mean and told her mother she did not like visiting him because she did not get along with his new wife or her step mother’s children.

According to family and friends, Taylor was retired military and he and his wife ran a “tight ship” at home. They believed in being strict.

Taylor told investigators he had forbidden his daughter to date at the age of 12, and had recently found out she had a boyfriend. Taylor’s wife also told investigators that her daughter was not allowed to date.

Taylor believed that her secret boyfriend could have also been one of the causes of his stepdaughter’s behavioral problems.

The victim was again interviewed on October 17, 2014 — this time by Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection. She told officials there would not be any physical evidence around the home. She also stated that during the sexual abuse, Taylor would “backhand” her to gain compliance. She claimed she had never told anyone about the sexual abuse until now. She stated that Taylor only made her watch a pornographic film one time, and she has not observed any other films around the house.

According to family and friends, the victim never showed signs of bruising or marks on her face, which would be consistent with a backhand.

When asked if there were any nude photos or inappropriate phone messages shared between Taylor and herself, she stated, “No,” but again claimed he had sexually abused her.

On October 21, 2014, Detective Rowe again interviewed Taylor’s wife. She told investigators that her daughter was a cheerful girl who was typically well-behaved and made good grades. She stated that recently her daughter had told lies in order to be able to spend time with friends, but she never expected the current allegations.

She stated that her husband and daughter always had a great relationship and there had never been any problems other than the fact the girl thought her stepfather was too strict.

When asked if her daughter had access to pornographic material, she said, “No.” She stated that their home computer is strictly monitored and she routinely checks her daughter’s cell phone. She told detectives that they did not allow their children to have personal computers — they only shared a family computer, centrally located so it could be monitored at all times — internet usage was strictly monitored. The children were never allowed to watch anything over PG-13, nor were they allowed to sit around and play video games all day.

She again told the detective that she was having a very difficult time believing the accusations.

The detective asked if she knew why her daughter would make up something like this, to which she stated that she believed it was because their daughter wanted to be homeschooled and they would not do it.

On October 21, 2014, Detective Rowe made contact with Taylor to schedule the polygraph test. Taylor’s attorney, however, would not allow it. Taylor’s attorney actually forbid him any further contact with detectives.

Taylor’s son as well as attorney had encouraged him to fight the sexual abuse allegations .

On October 22, 2014, Detective Rowe completed a probable cause affidavit to arrest Taylor for the offenses of Sexual Battery on a Child 12 years old or Older.

At 10 a.m., Detective Rowe contacted Taylor via telephone, notifying him of the charges, and requested he respond to the Ocala Police Department. Taylor advised he would.

Shortly after Detective Rowe spoke with Taylor, the law firm of Blanchard, Merriam, Adel, & Kirkland, P.A. contacted Detective Rowe and informed him that he was to cease contact with their client Mr. Taylor. The law firm then requested to know the charges, and informed the detective that Taylor would turn himself in.

Pastor Jeff Wade, from FACS, had planned to be Taylor’s transport to OPD.

Taylor was with his wife, at a home he had been staying at, when he learned that charges were actually being filed. Taylor’s wife then called his 27-year-old son, and told him he should come visit with his father before he was taken away. His son arrived a short time later. The family was in disbelief. Taylor’s wife and son told him they would fight the charges together.

As Taylor and his son were talking outside, Taylor said, “I refuse to be arrested.” When his son asked why, Taylor replied, “Once someone is arrested on child molestation charges, they stick for life.” His son then told Taylor they would fight the charges and not to do anything stupid.

Taylor said he had been removed from school and taken away from what he loved doing most — teaching. He said he did not want a good school to be dishonored by false accusations, and the accusations would follow him around forever. Taylor said it was not fair to his family, the school, or himself.

Taylor told his son that the charges were ridiculous and he refused to be labeled as a child molester. His son said they talked, prayed, and then he (Taylor’s son) went into the house and said to his mother, “I hope he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

Less than 30 seconds later, they heard a gunshot. Taylor died from a self-inflicted single gunshot wound to the chest.

Pastor Wade arrived a short time later.

Police found two typewritten suicide notes — one to his family, and the other his eulogy and burial wishes.

In the note to his family, Taylor wrote that he is not a coward, but an honorable man and will not be labeled as a child molester. He wrote that he refused to drag his family through the court system on the allegations. He wrote that he felt it would be better for his family if he left this world.

Taylor maintained his innocence in the suicide note.

According to the American Humane Association, sexual abuse is all about secrecy. They say when sexual abuse occurs, the child victim may be the only witness and the child’s statements may be the only evidence. In this case, there was no physical evidence, so investigators were relying on the victim’s statements. They also rely on various methodical interview techniques to determine fact from fiction. In such cases, the central issue sometimes becomes whether the child’s statements can be trusted. Some child welfare experts feel that children never lie about sexual abuse and that their statements must always be believed. On the other end of the spectrum, even if physical evidence is present, victims of sexual abuse sometimes deny the abuse ever occurred.

In this case, because Taylor took his own life, the case has been deemed closed. The circumstances surrounding this incident has shattered multiple lives, and left many, including students of FACS, asking questions that might never be answered.

Grievance counselors believe that during the two week investigation, Taylor slipped into a deep depression, which ultimately led to his suicide.

First Assembly Christian School released the following statement:

“The death of teacher, church member, and friend Ken Taylor has understandably been a painful tragedy for First Assembly School and Church. We grieve the loss of a man who we only knew as a dedicated instructor and faithful part of this congregation.

During his entire time as a teacher at our school, Ken had a flawless employment record.

To date, we have not been contacted by the police to make a statement about Ken or his record here. We continue to be ready to cooperate in any investigation they are conducting.

We regret the recent story in the Ocala Star Banner, which we feel misquoted our pastor several times. We encourage anyone reading the Star Banner article to realize it is not an accurate picture of Ken or his record with us.

Our prayers are with his grieving wife, family members, friends, and former students.”

The victim has since moved to Tallahassee and is staying with her biological father.

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