Just 10 hours after the discovery Saturday of Chamois residents Leonard Gerloff, 59, and his wife, Pauline, 56, who had been slain Friday night in the front yard of their home on Muddy Water Lane, …
Just 10 hours after the discovery Saturday of Chamois residents Leonard Gerloff, 59, and his wife, Pauline, 56, who had been slain Friday night in the front yard of their home on Muddy Water Lane, Osage County deputies arrested Warren M. Taylor, 62, also of Chamois.
He has been charged with two counts each of murder in the first degree, and armed criminal action. If convicted, Taylor faces 10 to 30 years or a life sentence on each murder count, and 5 to 10 years or life in prison on each count of armed criminal action.
Charges were officially read by Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Grellner at Taylor’s arraignment on Tuesday before Judge Sonya D. Brandt, who advised him to hire an attorney or file an application with the Public Defender’s Office for an attorney to be appointed.
Taylor, who was arrested Saturday night, has been held without bond at the Osage County Jail.
Brandt told Taylor she had issued a no-bond warrant for his arrest because of potential danger to the community. On Tuesday, Brandt asked Taylor why he thought he should be granted bond.
Taylor also said he’d been in the community for 22 years and wasn’t going anywhere, adding, “They’re my friends. Why would I do that?”
Grellner explained her reasons Taylor should be held without bond.
“The probable cause statement lays out more than sufficient facts for the charges,” she said. “Due to the gruesome and horrific nature of the crime, and the impact on our small county, and on the even smaller community, I ask that there be no bond. Some in the state don’t take this as seriously as we do, but for the safety of the community, I think no bond is appropriate.”
Brandt agreed, declining to alter Taylor’s bond status, which means he will remain behind bars until at least Aug. 24, when he will have a counsel status hearing at 10 a.m. The judge explained that under Missouri Supreme Court rules, he may request a bond review regularly. When asked if he wanted to request a bond review, Taylor shrugged. His bond situation may be reviewed at the next hearing.
Sheriff Michael C. Bonham explained the crime was discovered at around noon on Saturday when deputies responded to a residence north of Linn for a report of two deceased individuals. They were found by family members, according to Capt. Travis Shaffer, who lives at Chamois and knew the couple.
“A case like this is a shock to everyone,” said Shaffer. “There hasn’t been a murder here in Osage County for many years, and we as a community are not used to this level of violence. The community has done a good job helping us with information. We are more than pleased with the outpouring of support.”
Deputies were dispatched to the scene just after noon on Saturday following the discovery of the bodies, and the sheriff’s office requested the assistance of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control (DDCC). Investigators determined that both were victims of an apparent homicide.
MSHP DDCC Master Sgt. Marcus Reynolds in his probable cause statement said he was advised that Pauline Gerloff had sustained an apparent gunshot wound to the head and that Leonard Gerloff was lying facedown on the ground and had blood on his body and clothing. He was the victim of a gunshot to the chest.
A neighborhood canvass led to the discovery of a video surveillance system at a nearby residence, which showed that Leonard had pulled into his driveway at about 8:34 p.m. Friday. At approximately 9:01, an unknown Chevy truck pulled into the driveway, and a short time later, the same vehicle made what appeared to be a hasty retreat.
While the infrared nature of the video system did not capture the color of the vehicle, investigators noted the truck was equipped with cab lights across the top of the roof.
A witness told authorities that she and her mother were traveling on Highway 89 North, near the area of Muddy Water Lane when the truck was leaving the area. The witness noted the truck was red and had pulled out in front of her, which forced her to veer left to avoid a collision. The truck then traveled behind her, tailgating, and the witness identified Taylor as the driver when he made a left turn onto a gravel road. While she was unable to see if a passenger had been in the truck, the witness positively identified Taylor as the driver.
Investigators located Taylor at the Twist a Top bar in Chamois, and a red, 2019 Chevy Silverado was parked in front of the business. As Reynolds walked past the vehicle, he noted what appeared to be a bloodstain on the left fender, which seemed to be a droplet of blood that had run down the fender to a length of 18 to 24 inches. Using a blood-detection kit, the stain field-tested positive.
At 10 p.m. Saturday, Taylor was contacted and agreed to be interviewed at the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. He agreed to be transported to the office, and his truck was subsequently seized to be searched pursuant to a warrant.
Taylor reportedly told investigators that witnesses could provide an alibi, stating that he was at the Twist a Top until 10:30 p.m. on Friday. However, witnesses informed authorities that they had seen Taylor leave the bar between 8:30 and 9 p.m., and had last seen him turning south on Highway 89.
The Gerloffs lived just south of Chamois on 89.
While a murder weapon has not been identified, several evidentiary items are being examined, and an autopsy will be conducted this week.
Motivation for the double homicide is not clear.
“We still have a lot of unanswered questions,” said Shaffer. “This investigation is still in its infancy.”
At the forefront of the investigation is forensics, particularly those of a digital nature.
“A lot of video evidence from multiple sources is being collected for examination,” said Shaffer. “We have not had much of that before in Osage County but the progress has been amazing. We are working closely with the DDCC and trying to fast-track everything to get this case resolved as soon as possible.”
Bonham said he is pleased with the collaboration.
“I’m very proud of the way the deputies, the Patrol, and the task force worked together hand-in-hand on this on a very difficult situation,” he said. “We were able to quickly take action. This is a very tragic event that will take a long time for the people of Chamois and our county to heal. Our prayers and thoughts are with the families.”
Chamois Mayor Elise Brochu said the community is reeling.
“We’re all stunned and deeply saddened by the events of last weekend,” she said. “Leonard and Pauline were a vibrant and well-loved part of our community, and our hearts go out to their family and the families of everyone involved.”
A large contingent of friends and family was on hand for Tuesday’s arraignment and stayed after Brandt brought the proceeding to a close to hear further explanation of the case from Grellner.
“I have no words,” Grellner said. “You have my deepest sympathies. There is no way to truly understand this but your pain is felt by every human being in Osage County. This has impacted everyone.”
Murder has not occurred here in almost 20 years, and to Grellner’s knowledge, there hasn’t been a double homicide. When she became the prosecutor in February 2002, Grellner said there were four cases pending that involved deaths, one a second-degree murder, two more as a result of racketeering, and another involving a death while a felony crime was being committed.
Grellner told the group that this case will take time, especially since cases being heard this year were delayed last year due to COVID. However, when this case goes to trial, Grellner said she plans to set aside a week, and doesn’t expect it to go less than three days.
In the interim, she said she will never agree to bond. “You will hear the same argument I made today,” she said. “I don’t believe bond will be granted at this level.”
This case will remain at the Associate level until the preliminary hearing is conducted, after which it will be assigned to the Circuit level if enough evidence exists.
One family member asked why the death penalty was not mentioned as a possible punishment if Taylor if convicted. Grellner explained that this case lacks certain aggravating factors required to qualify it for capital punishment.
Instead, Taylor will serve 85 percent of his sentence if he is found guilty.
“It will be a cold day in you-know-what before I recommend a minimum sentence,” Grellner said of any attempt to plea-bargain.
Family members will have an opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing in the event it comes to that.
Members of the Gerloff family expressed appreciation for the way law enforcement officers have handled this case.
“I commend them too,” she said. “They called with questions to make sure everything was handled properly, and they’re not done.”
Grellner cautioned that this is not an open-and-shut case, with investigators still working to gather all possible evidence.
Friends and family were united in their love for Leonard and Pauline Gerloff and said they are hopeful that justice is served. The victims are in-laws by marriage to Gasconade County’s clerk and elections official, Lesa Lietzow.