Taylor-Windsor, 26, is charged with murder in the stabbing death of Jessica Nelson, 23, of Foresthill, Calif., and with attempted murder in the stabbing of Reid Kallenberg. The defendant is claiming self defense after he says Kallenberg pulled a gun on him, and Nelson stabbed him with a syringe.
First, Madera County homicide detective Jeff Noland took the stand and told the jury that he had gone to The Pines Resort in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2016.
Noland had been informed that there was one person outstanding after the accident on Highway 41, named Mike Ross. Noland arrived at The Pines at about 3 a.m. and said it appeared Ross had been asleep when he knocked on the door.
“He didn’t really want to talk, but he did give a statement.”
In describing what took place inside the truck before he fled the scene, Ross said it looked like Jessica Nelson had grabbed something, and that based on her body movement, it looked like it could have been a gun.
Ross told the detective that, “I really thought it looked like a gun, now that you asked.”
Detective John Grayson also testified, telling the jury that when he interviewed Taylor-Windsor in the early morning hours following the stabbing, the defendant said the gun was a sub-compact, but could have been a revolver. Saying it was dark in the truck, Taylor-Windsor couldn’t give an accurate description of the color either.
After Noland’s brief testimony, the defendant took the stand to testify in his own defense.
On direct examination by defense attorney Craig Collins, Taylor-Windsor told the jury that he had moved to California from Wyoming in early September 2016 looking to start a new life and find work. He met Mike Ross about two days prior to the incident, and Ross had told him about all the tree jobs available. They made plans to meet with Ross’s boss at Mowbray’s Tree Service at a breakfast in Bass Lake.
Taylor Windsor said he had filled out the job application and spoken to the “safety guy” for the company and met the man who was supposed to do the hiring, but neither of those men showed up at the planned breakfast meeting, just the crew. The defendant said he was confused about whether there there would even be a job, and he had heard conversations over breakfast that many of the crew had not been paid in quite some time.
On the day of the incident, the defendant said he spent most of the day with Nelson and Kellenberg, whom he had met the day before. He described their behavior as “shady and skittish” and said that whenever he walked into the room they always had a bag next to them and were always shoving things into the bag as if they had been caught doing something wrong.
The defendant was invited to Ross’s rented chalet at The Pines Resort, but said he did not want to hang out there because there was a lot of tension, and Nelson and Kallenberg seemed “weird and there was an odd vibe.” He said Nelson was hard to carry on a conversation with the few times he had spoken with her.
Taylor-Windsor said that he had become good friends with Cassandra Margrey, whom he met at the Hitching Post in Ahwahnee, and that he and Mike Ross had been to the casino on two separate occasions before, accompanied by Cassandra and one of her friends.
On the day of the incident, he said he had started to doubt that there would even be a job available, and told Mike Ross that he was going to leave. He said Ross snatched his car keys out of his hand and said to him, “I know you been drinking, let’s hang out you can take off later. We’ll go to the casino and you can sober up and then go do whatever you’re going to do.”
He said at first he was upset that Ross had taken his keys, but realized that Ross had made a good argument, and he didn’t want to get a DUI.
The defendant said he had had three or four Jack-and-cokes during and after lunch, and throughout the afternoon over a space of four or five hours, and was not intoxicated.
At around 10:30 p.m., after calling his ex-wife and being to told that she would call back after studying, the defendant, Kallenberg, Nelson and Ross got into the Ford 250 to head to the casino. Taylor-Windsor described the truck as being full of lots of stuff including bags, tools and garbage. When asked if he saw any syringes at that point, Taylor-Windsor replied no.
He said they then headed for the gas pumps at Bass Lake and that neither Ross nor Kallenberg had any money for gas, and they said they wanted him to pay for it. Taylor-Windsor said he wasn’t going to put gas in Kallenberg’s truck.
After trying to use his debit card and having it rejected, Kallenberg got back into the truck and they left for Oakhurst, he said. On the drive down from Bass Lake he described the radio as “blaring” and the three people in the front seat were talking among themselves, mumbling, but said he couldn’t understand what they were saying, just bits and pieces.
He said he tried to call his ex-wife a couple times between Bass Lake and Oakhurst, but it went to voicemail.
He said that Nelson was playing with a syringe in the front seat, “flipping it around in her hands and flicking it like a cigarette.” He also said Ross had his cell phone out and was texting somebody.
When asked whether or not he had ever said anything about writing a last email to his son, as had been testified to by both Ross and Kallenberg, Taylor-Windsor denied ever having had that discussion.
“The day before, it may have come up in some small talk about the emails I sent to him, but I did not say anything that night,” the defendant said.
He said that Nelson and Kallenberg continued whispering to each other, talking about “not being able to do it here,” and “we could pull over up here,” and that Ross was saying “hold on,” while texting. Taylor-Windsor said that made him feel edgy, especially watching Jessica messing with the syringe, and he realized they were “those kind of people.”
He told the jury he heard Jessica say, “Here — take this,” as she fumbled around between her legs or under the seat – he couldn’t tell – but he saw her hand something to Kallenberg, who then looked back over the seat at him, turned around and pointed a gun in his face.
“I freaked out,” said Taylor-Windsor. “I’ve never had people put a gun in my face. I reached forward and slapped the gun, I was afraid he was going to shoot me.”
He said he knocked the gun out of Kallenberg’s hand, and then Nelson turned around and started hitting him.
“She hit me in the face and in the side, and I felt a sharp stinging pain,” he said.
When questioned by Senior Deputy District Attorney John Baker during cross-examination whether Taylor-Windsor had actually seen the syringe, the defendant said, “she had it in her hand, and I never saw her put it down. And I had seen the two big knives she carried on her belt and the bolt cutters in her vest pocket.”
The defendant said Kallenberg also started hitting him, and that’s when he grabbed his knife out of its sheath and started stabbing them.
“Why do you carry a knife?” asked Collins.
“I usually have a knife on me,” said the defendant. “You never know what you might need one for.”
Asked what his state of mind was at the time he started stabbing the two, Taylor-Windsor said, “I needed to get the f**k away from there. I was scared. I took off running and jumped over the guard rail and took off into the woods. I was freaked out.”
The defendant denied that there was ever any argument between himself, and Nelson and Kallenberg before they began attacking him.
Baker began what became a rather contentious cross-examination by holding up a picture of a six-inch knife and asking, “Is this the knife you used to stab Jessica Nelson fifteen times and Reid Kallenberg three or four times?”
The defendant answered, “Yes, it is.”
Baker then went on to ask Taylor-Windsor why he had come to California and who he had lived with. The defendant said he had a friend named AJ who he had stayed with for about two months.
When asked why he had refused to tell Detective Grayson the name of his friend when he was questioned about it, the defendant said, “AJ wasn’t there; he had nothing to do with this.” He also claimed not to know AJ’s last name, though he said he has known him since he was 13 years old and they grew up together in Wyoming.
Taylor-Windsor said that since arriving in California he had been doing odd jobs for people in the Oakhurst and Mariposa area, though he could not name one of them or give any addresses.
Baker then began asking the defendant about his gambling problem. The defendant admitted that he had gambled all his cash away when he and Ross visited the casino, and that he had told Detective Grayson that he was a “gambling addict.”
When asked if he had been doing meth on Nov. 15, 2016, he said he had not, because he has a heart arrhythmia and overdosing on methamphetamine could kill him.
Baker asked if the defendant owned a gun or any ammunition, and he said he did not. Baker then showed him a picture of a baggie being removed from the door of Taylor-Windsor’s 1976 El Camino that purportedly contained ammunition, but the defendant denied any knowledge of what it was or where it came from.
When Baker asked the defendant if he liked his ex-wife, his reply was, “she is not my favorite person in the world, but I had to have liked her to have married her.”
Baker then asked if the statement made by the defendant’s friend Cassandra was true — that he had said his ex-wife Maranda Windsor was crazy and wanted all his money. Taylor-Windsor replied, “Well, she definitely wants money. She wants child support. And she can be difficult at times. I have to do what I have to do to make her happy. It can be irritating but I want to be able to see my son.”
Taylor-Windsor also testified that he didn’t “break in” to the Wright home after being told to leave at gunpoint from the Ratchford home. His blood was found throughout the house when detectives investigated the next day.
“I banged on the door, but no one answered. The door was open; I was looking for a phone. I needed help. There wasn’t any phone there, so I left.” He then saw a deputy’s car, and ran through the brush to the next driveway to flag it down, he said.
Baker then asked the defendant if he had been smoking pot that day.
“I got a medical marijuana card when I came to California,” he said. “I smoked marijuana every day.” He said he did not see Ross, Nelson or Kallenberg ingest meth that day, but Kallenberg admitted to snorting meth when he testified earlier this week.
Baker showed Taylor-Windsor several photos of what had been entered into evidence as the defendant’s injured hands, and asked if the injuries were received while he was stabbing Nelson and Kallenberg.
“I skinned my knuckles when I hit him,” said Taylor-Windsor.
Baker then asked the defendant, “Did you snap that night? Were you in a rage?”
“No, I was terrified,” answered Taylor-Windsor. “I really thought they were going to kill me. I was scared, not enraged.”
“How long did the stabbing go on?” asked Baker. “How long did it take to stab that 115-pound woman 15 times?”
“I continued stabbing until I got out of the truck,” said the defendant.
“You did all that damage just to get out of the truck?”
“How many times did you stab Jessica?” asked Baker.
“I wasn’t counting,” said Taylor-Windsor. “I was scared. I don’t know how many times I stabbed that girl.”
Baker then asked if the defendant had seen a doctor or gone to a hospital for any of his injuries, and he replied “no.”
The defense rested their case at 4:15 p.m. today, and the jury will be back on Monday, May 8, to hear closing arguments and receive instructions from the judge. The case is on track to go to the jury early next week.
Taylor-Windsor faces 30 years to life if convicted on the charges, and remains behind bars on a $3.1 million bond.