The jury trial for Ryan Taylor began yesterday morning in the Starke Circuit Court with opening statements from both the state and the defense. Taylor has pleaded not guilty to a charge of Arson after he allegedly lit a car on fire, destroying it. The state claims the car rightfully belonged to Taylor’s mother and he had no right to destroy the vehicle, but the defense says Taylor was the actual owner, having both possession and control of the vehicle, so it was his right to do with the vehicle what he pleased.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ryan said Taylor was seen driving a white pickup truck in rural Starke County by a witness who had driven past him on the road. The witness then stumbled upon a burning vehicle and reported it to police, but by the time emergency crews could arrive, the fire had entirely destroyed the vehicle. When police went to the home of the woman to whom the vehicle was registered, they found Taylor at the home with a package of three flares in his pickup truck.
Ryan alleges that Taylor originally told an investigator that he did not start the fire, but then changed his story and admitted to burning the vehicle in an attempt to be rid of it. He allegedly said that because his mother was moving to Florida and the vehicle suffered from a number of mechanical problems, he just wanted to dispose of it.
The defense claims that his mother moved to Florida and no longer wanted her vehicle because of transmission problems, the repairs for which would have exceeded the value of the car. As a result, she gave it to her son to do what he wanted with it, so he decided to destroy it by setting it on fire. His attorney said this is not a crime; not the best idea, but not a crime, because she had given it to him.
The jury trial is expected to continue through Friday.