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Authorities in Colorado say they have solved the murder of a teenage Girl Scout killed over 50 years ago, thanks to DNA testing and an investigation that spanned years.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday their belief that James Raymond Taylor — who today would be 80 years old — was responsible for the unsolved murder of Margaret “Peggy” Beck, who was killed in 1963 at the age of 16.
Beck, who was the oldest of four girls and had been a Girl Scout since the age of 9, was a camp counselor at a Girl Scout camp that summer, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said during a press conference Thursday. On August 18, 1963, Beck’s tent-mate found her dead inside their tent after going to check on her after she failed to appear for breakfast. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled, authorities said. Her family was informed of her murder later that day, after they returned home from church.
The initial investigation, which authorities described as “aggressive,” did not yield any arrests and the case went cold, even as investigators continued to look into it over the years, authorities said. However, investigators used evidence that was recovered from the crime scene to create a DNA profile of their John Doe killer first in 2007 and again in 2019; it was in October 2019 that that profile led them to Taylor, Elias Alberti, an investigator with the sheriff’s office, said.
Investigators were able to work with United Data Collect, a private company, to have DNA that was recovered from the crime scene tested against a public database, which led them to Taylor’s relatives and, eventually, to Taylor as their suspect. But while authorities have issued a warrant for Taylor’s arrest, they have been unable to locate him. However, they do know that Taylor, who they say has a criminal record including incidents in 1972 and 1974, was last seen in the Las Vegas, Nevada area in 1976.
Taylor had been living in Edgewater, Colorado in 1961 and was married, Alberti said. He worked in a television repair shop, had at least one child, and they believe that he was still in the area in 1963. He had no connection to the camp or to Beck’s family, authorities said.
“Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to actually put the handcuffs on James Taylor, so that he could be held accountable in a court of law,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said.
Beck is survived by her three sisters, according to the sheriff’s office. The family said in a statement shared by authorities, “Peggy was a beautiful young girl who loved life. She was loving and protective of her family and we will cherish the memories we have of her forever, and we would like to thank the Jefferson County Sheriff's investigative team for all their work.”
Authorities have been unable to verify if Taylor is currently living or deceased. Anyone with information on the crime is encouraged to place a call to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 303-271-5612 or call Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP.
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