Convicted killer in high profile Lexington murder says he can prove he didn’t do it

Published: Oct. 1, 2018 at 6:09 PM EDT
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Dressed in a tan jumpsuit, Convicted Killer Mark Taylor sat across from WKYT's Miranda Combs with a stack of legal papers. One page, in particular, Taylor believes should set him free.

An affidavit signed by Timothy Ballard explains that Ballard, not Taylor, was the one who killed Alex Johnson.

December 2013:

32 year-old Alex Johnson went missing just before Christmas. His family and friends, in a frantic search to find the University of Kentucky chef, handed out flyers and paid for billboards trying to get information on where Johnson had disappeared to.

January 2014:

Lexington police and fire rescue crews searched the Kentucky River for a second time and found a barrel in the bottom of the river. Inside, they found the body of Johnson, badly beaten and shoved in the barrel with his feet at the top.

Soon after, Timothy Ballard was charged with kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. Mark Taylor was charged with murdering Johnson. Ballard took a plea deal of 25 years. He took the stand against Taylor. Ballard told the Jury in 2016 that Taylor and Johnson "were basically best friends. But they also were business partners."

Johnson and Taylor had a lucrative marijuana and drug operation.

Taylor was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 49 years in prison.

August 2018:

WKYT's Miranda Combs met Taylor at the East Kentucky Corrections Complex. Combs paid Taylor a visit after receiving affidavits in the mail Taylor sent to her. There were four affidavits. The most intriguing was one signed by Timothy Ballard. In part, the document reads that Robert Taylor is not the person who killed Alex Johnson, nor did he participate in his kidnapping. Ballard's affidavit went on to say, 'I struck Johnson in the head with a broken baton that I carried around a few times until he stopped moving. He later stated that 'I cannot live my life knowing that I am the reason an innocent man is in prison. I did not intend to cause Johnson's death.' At the end of the page-long affidavit, Ballard states, "I swear this is the true and correct statement of the actual occurrences of that night."

"What did you think when you read that?" Combs asked Taylor.

"I had goosebumps. I had hair standing up all over my arms," Taylor said with a grin.

"Did you immediately think, 'I'm out of here?'" asked Combs.

Taylor replied, "Yes, but in the legal research I know, that's not good enough."

Taylor is his own counsel. He's passed paralegal training in prison. Every bit of legal documents he showed Combs was his work.

Taylor claims the case against him was closed before it began.

"I had blood on my lips, on my hands, what do you do? Would you call police at that point? I'm 180 pounds at that time. I just saw a 400-pound man beat the s*** out of my friend with a baton who I couldn't save."

Combs followed, "Where you saying to Tim at the time, 'Why? Stop?'"

"Frankly, it wasn't even about Tim. It was, can I save Alex?" explained Taylor.

Taylor said he had nothing to do with dumping Johnson's body in the Kentucky River. He said he didn't even know where the body was taken.

"What are you guilty of?" Combs asked.

"Disposing of the car," Taylor admitted. He went on, "I'm not who you make me out to be. I was put in a really bad situation that a lot was my own doing and I can't take that away from anybody."

In November 2017, Taylor appealed his conviction. But the Kentucky Supreme Court said they found "no evidence of reversible error." A month later, Ballard's affidavit showed up explaining what he said really happened that night. After Ballard's affidavit, two more followed one from Amy Roberts who said she had lied to police about Taylor's involvement in the murder because Tim told her to lie.

In May of this year, another sworn statement from a man who was in jail with Ballard. He said Ballard told him he killed "the guy" with a baton, and that he just "pissed him off."

Currently, Taylor is appealing again.

Combs spoke to Fayette County Commonwealth Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn who said her office will be responding to the appeals. Red Corn said it's shameful that Alex Johnson’s family has to be put through more heartache because of Mark Taylor.

Red Corn also said, “She is 100 percent confident the jury got it right. The person who killed Alex Johnson is sitting in prison right now, and that's Mark Taylor.”

Both Timothy Ballard and his ex-girlfriend Amy Roberts denied our requests for interviews. Ballard is currently serving his sentence in the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex.