Jail escapee Leviticus Taylor sentenced to life in prison for Vero Beach murder

VERO BEACH — Jail escapee Leviticus Taylor's next exit from the Indian River County Jail will be to state prison for life for first-degree murder during an armed burglary and robbery, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Taylor, 25, escaped from the Indian River County Jail on Oct. 26 to avoid Circuit Judge Robert Pegg's sentence in the 2009 murder-robbery of a 62-year-old man who was home alone at night in Vero Beach, according to court records.

Taylor and some accomplices left the house with a small television, some cash and miscellaneous items. The victim, Cuban refugee Nestor Perez, was left bleeding on the ground with a fatal blow to the head from a concrete block the 140-pound Taylor used to silence him, according to trial testimony. Perez died several days later after never regaining consciousness.

"I apologize to the family for their loss, but I can't apologize for the homicide I did not commit," Taylor said in court Wednesday.

Taylor's escape from the consequences was short-lived. Fifteen hours after his midnight jail escape, Martin County sheriff's officials apprehended him walking alone along a heavily traveled section of North U.S. 1 in Jensen Beach.

Taylor will be prosecuted later on the charge of escape — an offense that carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years. That could keep him in jail if his murder conviction is overturned on appeal, Assistant State Attorney Steve Gosnell said. Taylor's attorney, Sean Wagner, said he is planning an appeal.

During the trial, Taylor's co-conspirators testified against him in exchange for plea deals sparing them from murder charges, prosecutors said. The jury deliberated for about an hour before finding him guilty on all charges.

Perez was hit when he was making repairs to his aging BMW car so he could drive it the next day to Tampa to give it to his son, Luis Perez.

"I tried to convince him to come that night," said his son. Instead, his father went back outside to finish work on the car.

"If (the assailants) had just come up and gotten to know him, he would have given them money," Luis Perez said.

On Wednesday, Pegg sentenced Taylor to three life sentences for murder, armed burglary and armed robbery. The life sentences for burglary and robbery will be served after the murder sentence. Pegg's order took into account Taylor's prior record of battery in 2009 and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and cocaine in 2007.

Perez's widow, Luisa Garcia, said through an interpreter that she was happy with the sentencing but did not comment further.

Two women were charged with aiding Taylor's escape. They are Angela Pike, 35, of Atlantic City, N.J., and Sadie Welker, 19, of the 100 block of 46th Court, Vero Beach. They are accused of driving Taylor away from the jail after he and his cellmate, Rondell Reed, got past two jail fences. Welker remained at the jail Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 bail. Pike was released Tuesday.

Reed escaped while facing a charge of second-degree murder in a Sebastian killing. Recently, he was apprehended in Ohio after crashing a stolen car, according to law enforcement.

Reed and Taylor were in the county jail's maximum security area. According to sheriff's officials, they sawed through metal bars blocking their access to an overhead air conditioning duct. They stuffed materials under their blankets to make it appear they were there and then crawled through the duct and got into a maintenance area behind their cell. There, they broke door locks and got outside.

Jail officials are looking how they escaped without being seen and weren't discovered missing until several hours after they got under the last fence.

Staff writer Lamaur Stancil contributed to this report.

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