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S.L. MAN FACES MURDER CHARGE IN 1972 SLAYING

A Salt Lake man has been ordered to appear in 8th District Court in the 1972 shooting death of a Vernal man.

Willard Dale Taylor, 52, faces one count of first-degree murder in the death of Gregory Dahl Nickell, 21.During a preliminary hearing last week in 8th Circuit Court, Taylor's stepdaughter, Susan Saxton, recounted the same story she told authorities 20 years ago and again 18 years ago. Uintah County Sheriff Lloyd Meacham said the report with Saxton's testimony was misfiled at the time.

Saxton was told Uintah authorities would get back with her, but they never did.

Saxton told the court her stepfather came home the morning after the alleged crime, "upset, anxious, pacing and paranoid." Later in the day, she said he admitted that "he killed a guy, shot him and burned him up in a car in Vernal." Saxton said she remembered he "smelled like smoke . . . he had the smell of a bonfire."

She said she felt he was telling the truth about the killing when she saw a televised newscast on the homicide that night. That was when she first contacted authorities.

Taylor was not arrested until Aug. 14, 1992, when Meacham reopened the case after rediscovering Saxton's report, which had been sent to Uintah County by Salt Lake County sheriff's detectives years earlier.

According to court records, Nickell was shot several times in the early morning hours of Nov. 26, 1972, by a man who came to the car asking for help, saying he'd been in an accident.

The man shoved the body onto the lap of a woman in Nickell's car and drove 14 miles. He allegedly raped the woman at that time. Later another man who had been following in another car also raped her. The men left the woman on the side of the road near Dueschene. Nickell's body was recovered from his burned-out car near Vernal.

During two days of testimony, which ended Friday, Saxton and the woman victim agreed on the description of the car used in the crime and they said Saxton told them similar stories.

Both women said he bragged about raping a 13-year-old girl. He also mentioned a horse named Trigger to both women that he said he owned. Saxton said, to her knowledge, Taylor owned no horses.

Taylor has consistently denied any involvement in the crime and said he had never gone to Vernal. Two men who said they were former drug-related associates of Taylor's testified they knew he often made trips to Vernal and Roosevelt to carry out drug deals.

Taylor remains in the Uintah County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. A trial date is pending.