The family of a young woman described as a budding poet with a giving soul broke into tears Thursday as the man who stabbed her to death inside a vehicle just north of Oakhurst was sentenced to 39 years to life in prison without parole - the maximum punishment possible.
George Taylor-Windsor, 26, a recent California resident, was sentenced by Judge Charles Wieland in the Bass Lake Division of Madera County Superior Court. He was convicted May 10 for the first degree murder of Jessica Nelson, 23 of Foresthill, and second degree attempted murder of Reid Kallenberg, 32 of Auburn.
On Nov. 15 last year, Taylor-Windsor went on a stabbing rampage inside Kallenberg’s truck as Kallenberg drove the three from a chalet they shared at Bass Lake’s Pines Resort to Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. Another passenger and witness, Michael Ross, sat in the front seat.
As the group traveled down Highway 41 near River Falls Road, with Taylor-Windsor alone in the back seat, he began grumbling that his ex-wife and mother of his son - with whom he’d had a contentious divorce - wasn’t returning his phone calls.
Prosecution showed that was enough for Taylor-Windsor to snap and go on an attack of Kallenberg and Ross described as “frightening and powerful.”
Using his own six-inch-blade, Taylor-Windsor stood up and towered over the trio as he struck at Nelson first, stabbing her some 15 to 17 times, mostly to her upper back near her neck. Ross managed to jump out of the vehicle while Taylor-Windsor then lunged at Kallenberg, puncturing his lungs and breaking his ribs with three to four stab wounds that required two life-saving surgeries.
Taylor-Windsor testified that his actions were out of self-defense when Kallenberg pointed a gun at him and Nelson stabbed him with a syringe, possibly full of methamphetamine.
The jury didn’t agree, as evidence showed a gun was never found and syringes in the truck had caps on them. Judge Wieland even noted on Thursday that it would take “an extreme stretch of the imagination” to believe those claims.
Several of Nelson’s family, including her mother, wore purple T-shirts to court with a picture of her sharing a bright smile. They wished not to be quoted outside the courtroom, but in seven victim’s statements, read to Judge Wieland by Madera County victim’s advocate Rebecca Janzen, they described their daughter, niece, and friend as one of the most loving people they’d ever met.
“She was a good person. She would give you the shirt off her back if she could,” said Edwina Kay Reed, Nelson’s mother. “Jessica was beautiful, inside and out. She wanted to have children. Now, she will never get that chance.”
Reed described how Nelson’s grandfather, who pushed her to find work, was destroyed when she left their home to find a job in the tree cutting industry in Eastern Madera County, where she was eventually murdered.
“He took this very hard,” Reed said. “He stopped eating. He stopped sleeping. He felt sick. And he passed away in May of 2017, from a broken heart.
“Jessica was so full of life,” Reed continued, “and (Taylor-Windsor) took her life away from her, her family, her friends, and her dog. I will never forgive (Taylor-Windsor). I hope he rots in hell.”
“Losing Jessica has been extremely difficult,” said Jessica Baxter, married to Nelson’s older brother. “She was taken from us way too soon. She did not deserve this, and it will never completely go away. My husband and mother-in-law will never be okay again. My family will never be truly happy.”
All seven victims asked for Taylor-Windsor to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Defense attorney Craig Collins attempted to argue that Taylor-Windsor should receive concurrent sentencing, which would have allowed him to serve both sentences at the same time. That would have lowered Taylor-Windsor’s punishments to a total 25 years to life in prison.
But both Deputy District Attorney Paul Hornick and Judge Wieland disagreed.
“I don’t find any factual basis or moral basis to give Mr. Taylor-Windsor what he’s asked for,” Wieland said. “He decided his fate that night when he killed Ms. Nelson, and almost killed Mr. Kallenberg.”
Supervising Deputy District Attorney John Baker, who led prosecution, and defense co-counsel Katie Reed were not present at Thursday’s hearing.
As Judge Wieland read his sentence, and throughout the entirety of the morning’s proceedings, Taylor-Windsor - clad in a dark jumpsuit and white Velcro shoes - showed little emotion, even yawning several times before his case was called before court. A report from Madera County’s Probation Department noted Taylor-Windsor showed no remorse for his actions.
It was only after Wieland wished him final words of “good luck” that Taylor-Windsor gave a short nod.
Madera County District Attorney David Linn said he felt the maximum sentence was more than adequate.
“I think it was extremely just given the severity of the crime,” Linn said. “Nobody comes into our community and commits murder or another serious crime without paying the maximum punishment provided by law.”