California couple plead not guilty to decapitating own children

Father allegedly stabs children and shows their bodies to siblings, forcing them to stay in bedroom unfed for days

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Saturday 05 February 2022 19:30 GMT
Related video: Mother of children found decapitated in Lancaster charged in their killings

A California couple has pleaded not guilty to decapitating their own children in late 2020.

Maurice Jewel Taylor Sr, 35, and Natalie Sumiko Brothwell, 45, have both been charged with murder and child abuse.

A daughter and son – Maliaka Taylor, aged 13, and Maurice Taylor Jr, aged 12 – were found decapitated at the family’s home in Lancaster in the Mojave Desert, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, California.

Mr Taylor was charged with the felonies in December 2020 – two murder counts and two counts of child abuse in relation to his two other sons, prosecutors have said.

The father stands accused of stabbing his two older children on 29 November 2020 and showing their bodies to his two younger children, aged eight and nine years old at the time, and forcing them to stay in their bedroom for multiple days without being fed.

According to Deputy Eric Ortiz of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the children’s bodies were found by authorities five days later.

Mr Taylor had been working at a physical therapy centre in Santa Monica but pivoted to holding sessions online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When he didn’t appear for his appointments, clients contacted the authorities, who then discovered the children’s remains.

Ms Brothwell was arrested in September at her home in Tucson, Arizona and now faces the same charges as Mr Taylor.

They both pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday, according to Fox 11 LA.

Mr Taylor could be sentenced to between 57 years and life in prison if he’s convicted. Ms Borthwell’s possible sentence remains unclear.

They are both in jail with bail set at $4.2m and are scheduled to appear in court on 15 February.

The child abuse charges are considered to have occurred under circumstances or conditions likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

The criminal proceedings involving Mr Taylor were halted in December 2020 because of concerns about his mental state, but the proceedings were cleared to continue last year.

The charges against Mr Taylor doesn’t incorporate special circumstance allegations that would make him eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said that he was aware of the “hue and cry” concerning that the legal filing could “somehow provide less safety for our community in the case”.

“What would be the utility to take somebody that is probably going to spend the rest of his life in prison to continue to add years and waste taxpayers’ money on additional litigation?” he said shortly after assuming his post in December 2020.

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