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Taylor Marks is serving a life sentence after her mother was brutally stabbed to death more than a decade ago. Now, from behind bars, she denies being the mastermind behind the murder but claims to know who was.
“I want people to know the truth and not just think that I’m the mastermind behind it because I wasn’t,” Taylor Marks told "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “It really wasn’t intentional. I really didn’t mean for this to happen, and I really didn’t want anything bad to happen to my mom.”
From the Ohio Reformatory for Women, Marks recalls the Oct. 24, 2009 killing that landed her in prison. It started in Akron, Ohio, when 20-year-old Marks called the police around 8:00 p.m., crying that an unknown person stabbed her mother, 58-year-old Kristie Marks, before fleeing on foot.
Taylor handed the phone to her boyfriend, 21-year-old Brian Smith, who claimed the knife-wielding man had also cut him. Smith attempted to chase the suspect, but he got away, he said.
Taylor Marks was adopted as an infant by Kristie and Bruce Marks, a loving couple who couldn’t conceive children of their own. Raised in an upper-middle-class home, the parents doted on their daughter. They showered her with privilege that included horseback-riding lessons and dance classes.
But the picture-perfect life was shattered in 2002 when Bruce Marks died after succumbing to a diabetic coma.
“It broke me,” Taylor said from prison.
While those closest to the family described Kristie as a wonderful mother, Taylor, who admitted to being spoiled, said Kristie utilized materialistic gestures to fill the voids in their life.
“You wanna call me a spoiled brat, go ahead,” Taylor said. “Because you don’t know me at the end of the day.”
About one year after her husband’s death, Kristie began dating Edward Taylor.
“Taylor was the daughter I didn’t have,” Edward Taylor told "Snapped: Behind Bars." “ … I tended to be the voice of reason when Taylor and Kristie would get into an argument over anything.”
Taylor claimed her father’s death created tension between her and her mother. Kristie was set in her ways and would nitpick at trivial things, such as how Taylor wore her hair and did her makeup. Their relationship grew to be more stressful when Taylor's grades took a dive. She eventually finished school in 2008 and even began attending a local university, but there was no improvement in her and her mother’s relationship.
Once again, citing learning disabilities, Taylor's grades suffered, and she soon dropped out.
“Taylor was just a lost girl who didn’t know what she wanted to do,” said Edward Taylor.
At home, Taylor didn’t want to comply with her mother’s rules, such as a curfew and going out with certain friends, including her new boyfriend, Brian Smith.
“She just controlled every aspect of my life,” Taylor said about her mother. “She wanted me to fit into this little ass mold that she had for me, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to be my own person, and she wouldn’t let me.”
When Kristie prohibited Smith from coming over, it only pushed Taylor further into Smith’s arms until she finally moved in with him across town in 2009. It saddened Kristie, but two months later, a glimmer of hope appeared when Taylor called Kristie and asked to visit home.
Kristie was delighted and agreed to go and pick her daughter up on Oct. 24, 2009.
One hour later, Taylor Marks cried to dispatchers that someone had stabbed her mother. When first responders arrived at the apartment complex, Kristie was barely alive after sustaining 16 stab wounds.
She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Authorities began investigating right away, finding Kristie’s purse a couple of doors down and the murder weapon in some adjacent bushes. They also learned that a third person, 20-year-old Troy Purdie II, was also there for the murder. Investigators took the three witnesses back to the station and interviewed them separately.
Taylor claimed Kristie arrived at the apartment complex moments before a masked man stabbed her in a robbery gone wrong. While all three accounts mirrored one another, investigators soon saw red flags in their stories.
For starters, it didn’t make sense that a robber would go straight for an older woman with three young people standing by. The alleged robber also dropped the purse right after, never taking the money or car keys inside. For investigators, Taylor, Smith, and Purdie were all suspects.
Detectives interviewed the men first and opted to interview Taylor last.
“When I was in the room with detectives, I just didn’t care anymore,” said Taylor. “I was tired. I was wore out. I was mentally, just, beat down. I was just over it.”
Eventually, Taylor named Troy Purdie, a Black man, as her mother’s killer.
“He was talking about killing her,” said Taylor in the videotaped interrogation. “Because she’s racist. My mom is racist.”
But investigators had a hard time believing that as well. Using Taylor's confession, they brought Purdie back for further questioning. After listening to Taylor's claims, Purdie broke down and admitted to stabbing Kristie, but he said it had nothing to do with Taylor’s racist theory.
“Plan was, I kill her, I get paid,” Purdie said in the taped interview, claiming he was to “disappear from the picture” for $5,000. The money was to be paid out by none other than Taylor Marks. According to Purdie, Taylor expected to inherit money from the estate and/or Kristie’s life insurance policy.
Authorities arrested Troy Purdie on charges of murder.
Brian Smith, who initially stated that the masked robber cut him during the attack, copped to the small cut on his finger as a previous injury. Confronted with Purdie’s confession, Smith also admitted to his role in the crime and was arrested for murder.
Finally, investigators returned their attention to Taylor. Though she continued to deny the claims that she offered to pay the men to kill her mother, she, too, finally confessed.
“I tried to lie,” she chuckled in her prison interview. “I felt like if I told the truth, it wasn’t going to get me anywhere. It was just a very sticky situation.”
Taylor was arrested and charged with aggravated murder.
While investigators continued to try and build a case against the three suspects, a security guard came forward with a shocking revelation: He had a security video that captured the murder. While grainy, the footage showed Taylor idly standing while Purdie stabbed Kristie to death.
“When it came to that surveillance video, it shows that I’m standing there. But here’s the thing,” Taylor defended herself from behind bars. “I am 5’2," and I was only 120 pounds against two men that were twice my size and three times my body weight. They would have also hurt me in the process. So, I mean, the police can say what they want, but I was screaming and yelling at both of them to stop."
After talking to the suspects’ friends, authorities also learned that Taylor reached out to other acquaintances, hoping to solicit them to commit the crime. According to investigators, she offered her mother’s house to a friend if the friend agreed to mow Kristie down with a van.
Taylor denied ever trying to hire another person to kill her mother.
As a possible trial loomed in the distance, prosecutors announced their plans to seek the death penalty in the cases of Taylor and Purdie, noting that the murder was premeditated. In August 2010, Purdie made a deal and agreed to a life sentence without parole.
Taylor alleged her boyfriend, Brian Smith, was the mastermind.
“He was the backbone of everything …” Taylor told detectives. “ … He just planned everything with Troy. He was the brains of it.”
Taylor said that her mother made her so mad that she flippantly wished death on her. Smith took it to heart, and it was him who wanted Kristie’s money, hoping he and Taylor could use it to live happily ever after.
“I’m not a dangerous person, for real, for real,” said Taylor. “My mom aggravated me, and I said something I shouldn’t have said, and Brian took it literally and ran with it.”
Prosecutors left the choice between the death penalty and allowing Taylor to plead out in the hands of Kristie’s relatives, who asked the state to show mercy; they didn’t believe Kristie would have wanted to see her daughter sentenced to death.
“They didn’t show me mercy. Not that I feel like, because I would have probably ended up with the friggin’ life without parole regardless…” said Taylor. “That’s not mercy, spending the rest of your life in prison. No one deserves to spend the rest of their life in prison.”
Taylor pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and accepted a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The same applied to Brian Smith and Troy Purdie.
“My mom didn’t deserve anything that happened to her,” said Marks. “My mom did not deserve the choices that I made. I should have listened to my mom because at the end of the day, regardless of what she’s done to me, she did care. She did love me in her own way. And I realize that now.”
Kristie’s former boyfriend, Edward Taylor, continues to be one of Taylor Marks’ staunchest supporters.
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