Appeals court ruling sends double killer back to Utah's death row

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a federal court decision that had overturned Von Lester Taylor's 1991 double murder conviction and death sentence. Taylor is now back on death row at the Utah State Prison.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a federal court decision that had overturned Von Lester Taylor's 1991 double murder conviction and death sentence. Taylor is now back on death row at the Utah State Prison. (Utah Department of Corrections)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Von Lester Taylor, whose conviction for shooting and killing a mother and daughter in Summit County was overturned, is now back on death row.

On Friday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Taylor's original convictions of two counts of capital murder.

"Mr. Taylor has not demonstrated that applying the well-established procedural default rules would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Overturning the convictions now would be the fundamental miscarriage of justice," Chief Judge Tymkovich wrote in the decision for the court based in Denver.

On Dec. 22, 1990, Taylor and Edward Deli walked away from a halfway house in Salt Lake City and then broke into a vacant mountain cabin in the Beaver Springs subdivision in Oakley, Summit County.

Not long after, Kay Tiede and her mother, Beth Potts, a blind and partially handicapped Murray woman, arrived at the cabin and walked in on the two men. Within minutes, the women were shot multiple times and killed. Tiede's husband, Rolf, was also robbed and shot multiple times, including once in the head. He was then doused with gasoline as he pretended to be dead, but he survived the attack.

Taylor and Deli then set the cabin on fire and kidnapped Tiede's two daughters. The two men were arrested following a high-speed chase with police.

Taylor was sentenced to death for his role in the murders. Deli, after a juror held out against capital murder, was convicted of a lesser degree of murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

Following numerous appeals attempts, most of which centered around the claim that he had inadequate counsel at trial, Taylor filed a petition with a federal appeals court claiming "actual innocence."

In 2019, the appeals court ruled in Taylor's favor, saying he had met his burden of proof based on ballistics and medical forensics evidence. The fatal shots were actually fired by Deli, the courts ruled. Because of that, his conviction was overturned in 2020.

But according to the new ruling on Friday from the appeals court, "Taylor cannot qualify for the actual innocence exception" because under Utah law, he is still guilty as an accomplice.

"His actual innocence of capital murder as a principal does not absolve him of the substantive crime of capital murder under Utah law. He must also prove his actual innocence as an accomplice. Mr. Taylor failed to do so," the ruling states.

The court found that Taylor actively participated in the crime, even if he didn't fire the fatal shots.

"I fully agree with the majority that Mr. Taylor's actual innocence gateway claim lacks merit," Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote in a concurring opinion. She also noted: "The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that Taylor participated in, and was arguably the driving force behind, the two fatal shootings, and thus he is unquestionably subject to accomplice liability for the two murders."

In the majority opinion, Tymkovich also stated that Taylor has never denied firing the first shot that ultimately led to the deaths of the women.

"Despite reaffirming time and again that he participated in the murders, Mr. Taylor now argues he is 'actually innocent' of them. Thus, he contends we should consider his underlying claims for habeas relief. But given these facts, how can he be actually innocent?" the judge wrote in court documents.

"Mr. Taylor is not innocent, in any sense of the word,'" the ruling states. "The evidence clearly establishes that Mr. Taylor intended to cause the deaths of Kaye Tiede and Beth Potts and intentionally aided Mr. Deli to that end."

Taylor has been sentenced to die by lethal injection.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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