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An Idaho man has pleaded guilty of killing his 51-year-old roommate last year after becoming convinced the victim was starting a Nazi cult.
Douglass Taylor, 33, is facing 25 years to life behind bars after admitting to the 2020 murder of Hermann Hans Woerrlien, according to court records.
Police found Woerrlein lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen of a sober group home on Higbee Avenue and 17th Street in Idaho Falls at approximately 10:30 p.m. on March 10, 2020. He'd been stabbed multiple times and was transported to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Authorities recovered a knife with a red handle from the crime scene. Taylor, who fled the premises following the stabbing, was arrested after he was found hiding behind a nearby grocery store.
A witness later told detectives that he’d heard a "scuffle" break out in the group home's kitchen, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
The man, who also lived at the group home, admitted he saw Woerrlein on "his hands and knees" while Douglas stood "over him slicing his throat."
“I ran up the stairs, and I seen Douglas standing above Hans Woerrlein with blood on the floor,” the witness recounted during a preliminary court hearing in January, the East Idaho News reported. “He had a knife in his hand, and he had been pulling it out of Hans Woerrlein’s neck. He then ran through the house, dropped the knife in the living room and went out through the front door.”
The man stated he hadn’t assisted the mortally wounded man prior to emergency responders arriving out of fear of being accused himself.
“He looked too far gone for me, and I didn’t want to touch him,” the roommate added.
Under police questioning, Taylor, who was covered in blood, confessed to having "brutally stabbed" Woerrlein roughly 15 times before cutting his throat.
“[Taylor] responded that he was responsible for the killing of Hermann Hans Woerrlein,” the arrest affidavit stated. “[Taylor] advised words to the effect that he had ‘brutally stabbed that guy ...and made sure he was dead. [Taylor] estimated that he stabbed him about 15 times [and] then slits his throat.”
Taylor also accused Woerrlien, who had been traveling around the U.S. before staying in Idaho Falls in the months before his death, of being an aspiring founder of a Nazi German cult, referring to the 51-year-old German as a “young retard Hitler.” (Hitler was 56 years old at the time of his suicide in 1945.) Police have no evidence that Woerrlein was remotely involved in any Nazi ideology; other residents say that it was common for the members of the home to discuss religions and supposed secret societies in the facility.
Police confirmed that Taylor and Woerrlein were roommates at the Idaho Falls sober house and didn't have a prior relationship.
Taylor originally pleaded not guilty in February but then signed a plea agreement on Dec. 10, court filing show. His defense team has recommended no less than 15 years to life, according to the East Idaho News.
Taylor is being held at a Bonneville County detention facility, according to online jail records. Douglass has a number of past arrests in surrounding counties. The 33-year-old currently has an open case on battery and failure to appear charges in Ada County, additional court records show.
Jason Gustaves, Taylor’s public defender, noted that his client suffered from mental health issues, but declined to comment at length about his client's guilty plea on Wednesday.
"Mental health issues continue to seriously impact our community," Gustaves told Oxygen.com in a statement. "The lack of timely and comprehensive mental health treatment contributed to a tragedy that has permanently impacted two families.
Taylor’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2022 before Judge Bruce L. Pickett at a Bonneville County courthouse.
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