Murder victim, accused killer made for odd couple
They were an unlikely pair.
Wade Michael Taylor was slightly built, soft-spoken and generous to a fault. Cory Vanover was loud and brash, and he bragged about being a killer. But the two were often seen together around town, often at the Lenoir Soup Kitchen. They were together the day before Taylor’s body was found behind the Lenoir Mall, savagely beaten.
Vanover now is accused of the vicious attack. The Lenoir Police Department arrested him Wednesday night off Perry Street in Morganton on a charge of first-degree murder. As he was led from the magistrate’s office late that night, Vanover told WSOC-TV reporter Dave Faherty that Taylor made an unwanted sexual advance that set Vanover off into a drunken rage.
“Yeah, I beat him to death ... with my hands and feet,” he told Faherty.
Police had been investigating since Taylor's body was found Jan. 24, and their eventual suspect, Vanover, was right under their noses.
“This was a shocker,” Joe Prestwood said Thursday just before lunch was being served at the soup kitchen. “Nobody ever thought it would happen to Michael.”
The body of Taylor, 28, was discovered about 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 24 near a makeshift campsite in some woods where police believe he had been staying. He was only recently homeless. Until Jan. 13, Taylor had been staying with his friend Randy Price and Price's wife, Ashley, in Gamewell. Price and Taylor had been friends since childhood.
“He had an alcohol problem, but when he had a job, he worked hard,” Price said. Because the Prices have an infant daughter, Taylor's drinking was a particular concern. "He was looking for work. He needed a place to stay, so he moved in with us. We didn’t want him drinking around our daughter. When he got too drunk, he would always come back after he sobered up. This last time, we told him he had to leave.”
Price never saw his friend again.
“I had dropped him off at his sister’s house,” Price said. Later, “She texted me and told me he was dead. I didn’t know he was there behind the mall.”
Price doesn't understand why someone would hurt a person like Taylor, who once had accumulated $40 from panhandling but gave it to someone else who needed money.
“He was the most generous person I’ve ever met,” Price said.
The news of Vanover’s arrest eased Price’s pain, but he says Vanover’s on-camera “confession” sounded like an excuse more than an admission. Price disputes the accused killer’s claim that Taylor’s sexual advance triggered the killing.
“He (Taylor) never once made a sexual advance at me,” he said. “Even when he was homeless, he had girlfriends.”
Vanover, shackled and dressed in orange prison garb, was brought to Caldwell District Court for a brief hearing Thursday to be assigned a lawyer. This time, he was silent during the 30-second proceeding, though his head and jaw jerked sporadically in involuntary tics. His provisional attorney, Ted Cummings, declined to say much about his client afterward.
“He has Tourette’s (syndrome), you could see that in court. He told me he has undergone psychological evaluations. Other than that, I don’t know much else,” he said.
Price was just relieved police have a suspect in custody.
“I’m glad they arrested someone,” Price said. “A lot of people miss (Taylor). I hope he’s resting in peace.”