William Robert Taylor, “Attemp Rape”, 9 June 1947

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The arresting officer typed “Attemp Rape” on William Robert Taylor’s file card; William signed a statement admitting “molestation”; and the court charged him with “intent to commit morals offense”. Each phrase, from the blunt, abbreviated police term to the expansive, lawyerly phrasing, is stronger and says more than the one that follows it. As the charge becomes formalised, the words contain less and less meaning and take us further away from the night when a terrified sixteen-year-old girl, walking home just before midnight along Moody avenue, was attacked by a greasy haired bully and had to fight and scream in order to avoid being raped in the bushes in someone’s front yard.

The court suspended William’s sentence pending a mental health examination, and the case was never reported on again. William ended the year not in jail, as might be expected, but in the marines. He signed up for a two-year stint just after his trial; a reliable way of avoiding a prison sentence.

William returned to New Castle in 1949, but stayed only long enough to divorce his wife on the grounds of cruel and barbarous treatment before re-enlisting just after the start of the Korean war. Three years later—after the deaths of thirty-seven thousand Americans and two and a half million Koreans—William came home again. It had been a long five years since he had attacked the girl on Moody avenue and escaped into the marines, and it must have occurred to him that the time he had served in the army was longer and more arduous than anything the courts would have given him in 1947. But at least he had avoided jail.

William stayed free for the rest of the ’50s, but was convicted of another molestation in 1962 and sent to the Allegheny county workhouse for six months. There is no further trace of him.

Sources: New Castle News (10 June 1947 “Hold Man For Investigation”; 11 June 1947 “Waives Hearing”; 14 June 1947 “Sentences Handed Down”; 5 Sep 1950 “Court News”; 7 Nov 1950 “Taylor Re-Enlists In Marine Corps”; 28 March 1963 “Court Grants Four Paroles”).

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