Editor’s Note: One of the biggest manhunts in Iowa’s history took place in July 1981 and culminated with the arrest of James “T-Bone” Taylor near La Porte City. The following account, written by Dolores Bader, contains excerpts from an article originally published in the July 22, 1981 edition of The Progress Review. It vividly recalls the events surrounding the search for an armed fugitive hiding among the citizens of La Porte City. -MW
What a day! This Monday the 13th was far worse than any Friday the 13th I can remember. The doorbell that seldom works clanged us out of bed somewhere around 3:30 AM.
From the hallway we could see cars lined from our drive past Sweet’s with lights flashing everywhere. The immediate thought of an accident delivered us from fear as we hurried to answer the door. Shock set in when we discovered several armed men, uniformed and plain-clothesed on our doorstep.
Lt. Dennis Damon of the Waterloo Police Department invited us to accompany another officer down the drive while our house was searched. A car had been found in our driveway; an armed and dangerous man was being sought. More of the story came as we stood with the officer in the driveway. Two Waterloo policemen, Michael Hoing, 28, and Wayne Rice, 27, had been shot when they responded to a trouble call at 1027 Franklin St. in Waterloo at 11:45 p.m. Both men were dead and the car in our drive, only a few feet from Highway 218, was believed to have been abandoned by James “T-Bone” Taylor, 28, of Waterloo and formerly from the East St. Louis area, the suspected killer.
The Tom Harvey and Ron Maley families, with whom we share the drive, also got to walk the length of it in the dark as their homes were searched. The farm buildings were also searched.
By 6:30 a.m. the yard held dozens of officers in a variety of uniforms, police dogs and a Cedar Rapids helicopter. The Waterloo PD. Lab crew worked on the 1969 Buick LeSabre which now had two slashed tires as a wrecker waited to tow the car away. Sometime between 7 and 8 AM word came that Dorothy Boldt had seen a stranger walking in the road near her home four miles southwest of La Porte. She called her husband, Don, who was already at work at the LPC Post Office. He notified police. In minutes, all activity moved from our yard to the Boldt farm where an intensive search using planes, helicopters, mechanical corn pickers and armed men (75? 100? nobody counted), began an intensive search which continued into the night.
At 8:30 AM I went to work and other people began telling their stories! Guns were brought out of storage and loaded. Cars were going to be left out, open and keyed.
Fear increased as darkness came with no results from the search. As people returned home from work, the sectional ball tournament or a trip to the grocery store, they searched their homes, locked the doors, and some prepared for a long night’s watch. At 11 PM we turned off [the Tonight Show with Johnny] Carson, loaded the shotgun we had borrowed and went to bed. Strangely enough, we slept.
Today was terrible too! We woke to morning radio reports that the manhunt had shifted from the Boldt farm to the Eagle Center area after someone attempted to steal a truck at the Dave Forbes’ farm near Buckingham around midnight. Forbes shot the tires on the truck as it was being driven out of his yard, crippling the vehicle and sending the occupant off on foot.
As the day wore on I began to feel safer. With radio always at arms length, I took time (and got bold enough) to sit on the deck and play with the kittens, as reports of sightings came one after another. Two men, Joseph and John Phams, were being held in Waterloo as material witnesses.
Later, the already tragic series of events was compounded as a sheriff’s car en route to the Hayes farm collided head-on with a car driven by Gertrude Vance of rural La Porte.
The small town person-to-person news service gave choked accounts of a “very bad” accident- two dead, three very seriously injured. In a matter of minutes, 4:04 PM, the manhunt was called off and a mantle of fear and futility settled over a wide territory, as doors were again bolted and extra firearms were loaded.
Why? The word on all lips. Why? The question that accompanies every tragedy. This is all so senseless. Four innocent people dead, three badly hurt and thousands scared to death. The day ends. Handsome Deputy Sgt. William Mullikin, 28, is dead. Robert Vance, 65, was dead…his wife Gertrude hospitalized. Also hospitalized with critical injuries were deputies Lt. John Sewick, 39, and Mark Johnson, 24.
Tomorrow two police officers will be buried. Their killer is still at large. Like many other people, we checked the gun and slept fitfully.
Today was an official day of mourning for the Waterloo policemen. Car after car of police officers drove north on 218 to attend the two funerals. Surely by now Taylor is long gone. But how? Did someone help him? Was the car in our drive planted? I’ll bet it was! The weather is still very hot. No one could survive three days, in the hot fields without food and water.
I went to town. A lot of people seemed willing to agree with me. I had shored my confidence and rather enjoyed the evening alone with a good book as I crowded back thoughts of the grieving families and the uselessness I felt.
I’m sure he’s gone, the FBI will be looking for him soon. They issued a federal warrant for his arrest this afternoon. I opened the doors, left the keys in the car and scrubbed the garage.
After supper, we sat on the deck. Decided not to stay up for the eclipse. I turned on the front lights, a three day old habit, and we called it a day.
Incredible day! I feel like I’m watching a TV series! It was a normal Friday until noon. I went to work at 9. At one o’clock Ned came in to tell us they had chased Taylor out of the blue house at the edge of town. Before we could decide whether or not to put his report in the joke category, Phil Winther popped thru the door.
“Don’t get excited …Dave and Janan are okay, but they’ve got Taylor cornered in their bean field.”
I blinked and just that quick Phil and Dad Bader were gone. Bob Wagner flew for the camera and the rest of us ran for a radio. It was my turn to be the watching, wondering by-stander. Police cars screamed into town. Some turned south to the blue house, where Laura Fultz and Millie Christian had unexpectedly encountered the fugitive when they entered the recently vacated house to change a light bulb. Others raced out the Brandon road where Taylor had rolled the yellow Pinto station wagon he had taken from Mrs. Fultz.
Young Scott Jordt had seen Taylor leave the house and went for the police. Laura Fultz fled from the house after Taylor had demanded her keys at gun point. She went out the front door across to the home of Luella Teatsworth who took her to the police station. Millie Christian had left the house by the rear door, and she too headed for the police station.
As Taylor took off in the Fultz vehicle, he dropped the .357 revolver which had caused so much trouble on the gravel drive at the side of the house.
On Brandon Road he lost control of the Pinto station wagon and rolled it on its top on the left hand ditch just before the first curve past the Ivan Miller farm.
Apparently unhurt, he travelled the ditch in a crouch, crossing the road just north of Dave Bader’s where he entered the bean field and began crawling toward another cornfield and the dense river bank area. In minutes the bean field was surrounded by police and Dave and Janan had a yard full of company. Casey Robb was on top of a grain bin with binoculars and he gave the good word that Taylor had surrendered.
There are a lot of great stories and theories around, but I can no longer separate fact from fiction. Taylor was tattered and torn. Was he here all the time?
A reporter asked, “Don’t you think it’s strange that this started on a Bader farm and ended on a Bader farm?” Strange isn’t the word …I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.