Crime

Police: Arrest made in SIUE student’s murder

Hazelwood’s city manager, at right, and other members of the Major Case Squad outside the Hazelwood Police Department Wednesday during the press conference for the homicide of SIUE student Taylor Clark.
Hazelwood’s city manager, at right, and other members of the Major Case Squad outside the Hazelwood Police Department Wednesday during the press conference for the homicide of SIUE student Taylor Clark. News-Democrat

Michael Gordon, the suspect in the killing of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville engineering student Taylor Clark, was arraigned Thursday morning in St. Louis County Court.

According to a St. Louis County Circuit Clerk’s Officer official, the arraignment took place electronically as Gordon, 24, remained in confinement in jail in Clayton, where he is being held on $1 million bail.

According to police, Gordon sought out Clark on Monday morning through a Craigslist ad. Clark was attempting to sell his 2007 Nissan 350 Z on the electronic advertising board and took it to Missouri to show Goron after completing a final exam earlier in the morning.

Instead of purchasing the car, a spokesman for the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis said Gordon fatally shot the 19-year-old St. Jacob man in the parking lot of the Hazelwood, Mo., truck driving school where the suspect worked off Missouri Bottoms Road. The victim’s body and car were found on the premises.

Gordon, of the 4500 block of Mardel Avenue in St. Louis, was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Tim Fagan, a deputy commander with the Major Case Squad, said during a Wednesday night press conference that Gordon has been in custody since Tuesday when a witness told police he saw Gordon get into Clark’s car. The witness told investigators Gordon came back alone a short time later.

Fagan said the meeting took place during Gordon’s lunch hour. The suspect allegedly shot Clark in the head one time and then drug him to a shallow grave where the victim was covered with dirt and leaves.

The murder weapon has not been found as of Thursday morning, police said.

Police said Clark was an upstanding citizen who likely had no idea his life was in danger until the end.

“He trusted people,” SIUE civil engineering lecturer David Sherill told the News-Democrat. “He would have done anything for anybody.”

Sherill said Clark, an engineering student from St. Jacob, planned to spend the summer working as a land surveyor.

“He was a good kid with small town values,” Sherill said. “It’s hard for me to even think about.”

SIUE students held a vigil for their murdered classmate Wednesday evening.

The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis announced Gordon’s arrest at 9 p.m. Wednesday during a meeting with reporters outside Hazelwood police headquarters.

Police located Clark’s body shortly after finding his car Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of the MTC driver training center in the 12000 block of Missouri Bottom Road in Hazelwood. A ping from Clark’s cell phone indicated he had been near the St. Louis Outlet Center, less than two miles from where his body was found, at 11:37 a.m. Monday.

Fagan said investigators now were searching Wednesday night for Gordon’s car, a red 1990 BMW 325i with Missouri license plate FL329K. He said the investigation was continuing but that there was nothing to indicate anyone else other than Gordon was involved in the murder.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Fagan said investigators were “talking to many, many people” and looking for footage from any surveillance cameras that may have captured evidence.

Police asked that anyone with information about the case call police at 314-513-5225.

GUESTBOOK: Offer your condolences to Taylor Clark’s family

A Taylor Clark memorial page was created on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Taylor-clark-memorial/566454060160107?sk=timeline. It has more than 9,700 likes.

Two nighttime vigils have been held in Clark’s honor at the gas station where he worked in Troy, and more events in his honor are planned.

Logan Sanders, an SIUE student from Rochester who took classes with Clark, said a memorial car cruise in Clark’s honor is set for Sunday, May 17. The cruise will kick off at 2 p.m. on Lock and Dam Road in West Alton, Mo.

“Taylor was just an all-around good kid,” said Sanders, who, along with Clark, set up the group SIUE Car Enthusiasts. “He’s been one of my best car buddies here at school.”

“I don’t know anyone who has ever had a problem with (Clark),” Sanders added. “He’s hard to dislike. You have to go out of your way to dislike him. It’s not fair.”

Anyone interested in joining the memorial cruise can get more information from the Facebook page set up for the event. According to the page, nearly 800 people so far have said they’re attending.

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.

“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.

Fagan said the investigation has shown Clark was “by all accounts a very good young man, quality person, college student, who unfortunately fell victim to a tragic event.”

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