George Taylor-Windsor, a 26-year-old man accused of murder for stabbing a woman to death inside a truck north of Oakhurst last November, testified Wednesday that what he did was out of fear for his own life.
“I freaked out,” Taylor-Windsor told a jury inside the Bass Lake courthouse. “I’ve never really had people put a gun in my face ... I was scared they were going to shoot me.”
Taylor-Windsor, through defense counsel Craig Collins and Katie Reed, contends that Jessica Nelson, a 23-year-old from Foresthill and Reid Kallenberg, her boyfriend driving the truck, attacked him for an unknown reason - possibly to steal a 1976 El Camino he had purchased after moving to California from Wyoming last September.
Lead prosecutor John Baker, with co-counsel Paul Hornick, instead argues that Taylor-Windsor was broke, had nowhere permanent to live, and with a history of making death threats towards his ex-wife, who has sole custody of their son, he snapped when she didn’t return his multiple phone calls Nov. 15, the night Nelson died.
Closing statements and jury deliberations are expected to begin Monday, after defense rested and attorneys go over jury instructions alongside other legal proceedings.
Taylor-Windsor said he woke up that fateful November morning in a chalet at Bass Lake’s Pines Resort in the company of Nelson, Kallenberg, and another witness Michael Ross. The four later traveled to Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino inside Kallenberg’s F250 truck when Taylor-Windsor allegedly murdered Nelson and committed attempted murder on Kallenberg, who survived stabbing injuries such as a punctured lung and fractured ribs.
Taylor-Windsor described Nelson and Kallenberg as “really shady,” and that he no longer felt comfortable sleeping near them.
“They seemed kind of skittish whenever I walked into the chalet,” Taylor-Windsor testified. “They always looked like you caught them doing something wrong.”
Through previous witnesses, including Kallenberg, evidence showed both Kallenberg and Nelson were consumers of methamphetamine - Nelson by intravenous injection. Defense claims Nelson stabbed Taylor-Windsor with a syringe during the attack they say forced Taylor-Windsor to use his six-inch knife.
Taylor-Windsor testified, and told Madera County Sheriff’s detectives in interrogations, that he stopped using methamphetamine in the past due to a possibility it would affect his diagnosed heart arrhythmia.
That afternoon, after a sort of orientation breakfast at Ducey’s on the Lake attended by all four - all except Ross hoping to land a job in the tree cutting industry by being there - Taylor-Windsor said he enjoyed “three to four” mixed drinks at the chalet. He and Nelson also smoked some marijuana. Kallenberg testified he and Nelson also found time to ingest methamphetamine around that time.
Taylor-Windsor told the jury he wanted to leave as Kallenberg and Nelson were making things tense, but Ross took his keys, telling him he’d been drinking. Ross’s testimony contradicted that statement on the stand last week, as he said he was given the keys.
In another contrast to earlier testimony during the trial, that began last week, Taylor-Windsor also denied saying he wanted to kill his ex-wife Maranda Windsor - a claim Kallenberg made on stand.
Taylor-Windsor said after the group got in Kallenberg’s truck, he noticed Nelson playing with a syringe in the front seat. Taylor-Windsor was the sole passenger in the back seat.
At some point, Taylor-Windsor said Nelson mumbled something to Kallenberg and handed him an item, which Taylor-Windsor claimed was a gun. Kallenberg then turned around and pointed the gun at him, which he swatted away. As Nelson struck him in the head and body, Taylor-Windsor said he felt a sharp, burning sensation from something stabbing his side.
That lead to him drawing his blade, Taylor-Windsor said, as he fought to save his life.
“My thought process was I need to get out of this truck before these f----rs kill me,” Taylor-Windsor answered when questioned by Collins.
As the chaos unfolded around 10:30 p.m., the truck crashed into a rocky hillside near Highway 41’s intersection with River Falls Road north of Oakhurst. Taylor-Windsor said he fought off Kallenberg’s continued attack and jumped a nearby guard rail, running down to the home of Paul and Kristine Ratchford on Whoyah Teh.
In earlier testimony, the Ratchfords said they answered Taylor-Windsor’s continued banging on their door - and his pleas that someone was trying to kill him - by telling him law enforcement was on the way. Taylor-Windsor wouldn’t leave, they said, until they pointed a gun at him, leaving the alleged murder weapon on their doorstep.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Taylor-Windsor said he dropped the blade on purpose.
“Well, banging on somebody’s door with a bloody knife probably isn’t going to get you much help,” Taylor-Windsor said.
Taylor-Windsor then entered the nearby unlocked home of Jordan Wright, who wasn’t home to, in his testimony, search for a phone.
“I thought someone might shoot me,” Taylor-Windsor said. “I was scared. I needed a phone, to contact somebody for help.”
He left the home and flagged down the vehicle of deputy Bianca Zendejas, telling her he had been stabbed with a syringe, and was later arrested.
“I was just stabbing and trying to get out”
During cross examination, Baker’s questions followed a line that Taylor-Windsor was a gambling addict down on his luck, which lead to a fury-filled rampage.
Baker repeatedly pressed Taylor-Windsor on the validity of his testimony, including whether he ever actually saw Nelson hand Kallenberg a gun - a firearm has never been found - and whether he was truly stabbed with a syringe.
Baker asked Taylor-Windsor if he had anything valuable in his possession - possibly to question defense’s position that Kallenberg and Nelson intended to rob him.
“I came out here with the clothes on my back and a backpack,” Taylor-Windsor said.
Through questioning, Taylor-Windsor agreed he told detective John Grayson that he was in a “rough spot,” as some jobs weren’t working out, and that he had “lost all the cash I had on me” at Chukchansi casino in previous visits.
The most repeated question was if Taylor-Windsor had actually been stabbed by a syringe. Every time he was asked, he repeated a similar answer to “(Nelson) had a syringe in her hand as she hit me, and I felt a sharp pain in my side.”
In previous testimony, as repeated in questions by Baker Wednesday, at least two members of law enforcement - Zendejas and Grayson - as well as one emergency medical worker never found puncture wounds on Taylor-Windsor’s body.
After repeated questions about the gun, Taylor-Windsor eventually agreed he never actually saw Nelson hand Kallenberg a gun, but he knew it happened when the firearm was pointed in his face.
Near the end of the afternoon, Baker put photos of Nelson’s body on a screen and asked Taylor-Windsor why he needed to repeatedly stab both her and Kallenberg, if he was only acting in self-defense. Previous testimony from pathologists Mark Super and William Dominic indicated Nelson was stabbed 15 times, and Kallenberg at least three to four times.
“Was (Nelson) attacking you when you stabbed her right here, in the middle of the back,” Baker asked, pointing to a wound on the photo.
“I don’t know,” Taylor-Windsor said. “I was just stabbing and trying to get out.”
“So you’re just stabbing at anything in the front seat,” Baker continued a few questions later.
“Anything that would have come close to me,” Taylor-Windsor said.
“Even Michael Ross,” Baker asked.
“If he had tried to grab at me or something, yes.”
Ross previously testified he managed to escape during the chaos inside the truck and returned to the Pines Resort chalet.
After asking why he needed to stab into the back of Nelson’s head, downward into her ribs with enough force to break them, Baker closed out with a few short, simple questions.
“Are you aware that stabbing someone can kill them,” Baker said, adding, “and are you aware that repeated stabs are more likely to lead to death?”
“Yes,” Taylor-Windsor said to both questions. “I was scared. I don’t even know how many times I stabbed that girl.”
The trial is scheduled to continue Monday morning in the Bass Lake Division of Madera County Superior Court. If convicted of both charges against him, Taylor-Windsor faces 37 years to life in prison. He remains in Madera County Jail on $3.1 million bail.
Third of four mountain murder cases in 2016
Taylor-Windsor’s arrest was the third of four such murder cases in the Mountain Area, all between August to December.
On Aug. 6, Jason Jerome Henderson, 45, was stabbed to death during an altercation in the lower parking lot of the Silver Creek Shopping Center in Oakhurst. No arrests have been made.
On Oct. 22, Craig Anthony Fetty, 28, and Tiffany Dambrino, 20, were arrested for allegedly murdering Dennis Dolan, 68, at his home in Ahwahnee. The two, both from Ahwahnee, will soon stand trial after a preliminary hearing in March.
And on Dec. 17, respected North Fork resident Bonnie Hale, a member of the North Fork Rancheria Mono Indians’ Tribal Council, was found dead at her home on Road 225, allegedly killed by Mary O’Keefe, 64.