Metro-East News

Police: Missing SIUE student is homicide victim

Taylor Clark, 19, of St. Jacob, was an engineering major at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Taylor Clark, 19, of St. Jacob, was an engineering major at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Provided

The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis has been activated to investigate the killing of 19-year-old Taylor Clark.

At a news conference Wednesday, police said Clark’s death was a homicide. His body was found near a truck-driving school in Hazelwood, Mo.

Police offered only scant details, but said an active investigation was being conducted by the Major Case Squad.

Lt. Tim Fagan said investigators were “talking to many, many people” and looking for footage from any surveillance cameras that may have captured evidence.

Friends and relatives of Clark, a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, have expressed condolences on social media. The Troy Times-Tribune, quoting St. Jacob officials, reported that Clark’s body was found in a shallow grave. The Troy convenience store where Clark worked put a message on its outdoor sign: “Forever in our hearts Taylor.”

Darrell Meek, a manager at the ZX convenience store in Troy, said Clark has been a dependable employee there.

“He would dance behind the counter,” Meek said. “The customers loved him. His co-workers loved him. You won’t find anyone anyone to say a bad thing about him.”

Meek has known Clark since they were children.

“He was a great kid. Just a typical college kid,” Meek said.

Meek has two children, ages 10 and 14. “They got extra hugs last night,” Meek said.

The mood was somber in the convenience store Wednesday morning. One worker was crying.

A man who answered the door at the Clark family’s home Wednesday morning politely told a reporter he wasn’t ready to comment.

St. Jacob Mayor Rich Schiefer said the community is saddened.

“It’s just something you don’t want to hear,” he said.

There also was sadness at SIUE, where it’s finals week.

“Our hearts and minds are with Taylor Clark’s family and friends as they cope with this tragic loss,” said SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe. “At a time of the year when the new spring season brings the promise of brighter days ahead, and commencement provides unending potential for so many of our students, it is truly sad that Taylor had his bright future taken away. He will be missed by all of those who he encountered on our campus.”

The SIUE Greek Council, in a tweet, mourned a “young life full of hope taken way too soon.”

A Taylor Clark memorial page was created on Facebook:

The car that belongs to the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student missing since Monday morning was located in Hazelwood, Mo., on Tuesday evening.

Clark, 19, of St. Jacob, took his last exam of the semester on Monday morning and then visited his girlfriend at her workplace in Glen Carbon, and hasn’t been seen since. He left the meeting with his girlfriend just prior to 11 a.m.

Clark’s red, 2007 Nissan 350ZX was found in the parking lot of a truck facility in the 12000 block of Missouri Bottom Road near Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

Detectives and a medical examiner were seen at the facility.

Madison County Sheriff John Lakin said earlier Tuesday that cellular signal information indicated Clark’s phone was in the area of the St. Louis Outlet Center in Hazelwood at 11:37 a.m. Monday. Clark was selling the Nissan on Craigslist, and he told family members that he had spoken with at least one person on Monday about the Craigslist posting.

Lakin said it’s not clear if Clark met with anyone in connection with the car.

St. Jacob Police Capt. Jeff Souders commended Madison County sheriff’s detectives for their work. Souders said investigators pursued the case aggressively because it seemed odd for Clark to go missing.

Souders said detectives pursued the case so actively because of Clark's actions.

“He took his finals. He paid for the next semester of classes in full, then he went and took a soda to his girlfriend. There was nothing about that that made it look like he ran away,” Souders said

A group of detectives began looking for Clark and located his car within a few hours.

“Can you imagine finding one car in the entire metro area?” Souders said.

Clark was last seen wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals T-shirt, black shorts and black Nike shoes. He’s about 5-foot-6, 190 pounds, has light brown hair and a mustache and beard.

Lakin said Clark, who resides with his parents in St. Jacob, has no prior history of disappearance, no known medical conditions which might cause him to go missing, and no known issues that might cause him to voluntarily go missing.

This year was Taylor Clark’s second year at SIUE.

Madison County Sheriff’s Department officials declined to comment and Hazelwood officials could not immediately be reached Tuesday night.

Police asked that anyone with information contact the sheriff’s department at 618-692-4433, an anonymous tip line at 618-296-3000, or the investigations unit at 618-692-0871.