In late summer of that 2017, in Pensacola, Florida, Taylor Wright was in the middle of a chaotic divorce. Jeff Wright, her ex, had custody of the couple’s son, and Taylor was expected to pay child support. Taylor and Jeff had lived together in North Carolina, where she had been a police officer.
She moved to Pensacola after the divorce in order to start a new life. She became a private investigator and began a new relationship with a woman named Kassandra. Taylor was having legal trouble involving the $100,000 in her bank account, money that had been in a joint account with her ex-husband.
A judge was demanding she return to the account or face serious jail time. When her court date rolled around, Taylor didn’t show up and her girlfriend Kassandra reported her as a missing person on September 10, 2017.
The police didn’t think much of the initial missing person’s report. Taylor was on the hook for a lot of money and in the middle of a divorce, so they didn’t think it was that strange that she might go off the radar. Kassandra, frustrated that her girlfriend had run off, called Taylor’s friend Ashley McArthur, a crime scene technician. Kassandra wanted Taylor’s things out, thinking that Taylor may have simply been cheating on her.
By September 14, Kassandra became deeply concerned that something could be seriously wrong, as Taylor was still missing. An investigation uncovered that Ashley had been given some $34,000 from Taylor, money that Taylor was trying to keep from her ex-husband. Ashley was running a family-owned jukebox company called Pensacola Automatic Amusement, after having spent six months working as a CSI.
When Taylor went missing, it turned out, she had plans to go with Ashley to the bank to retrieve the money that Ashley was holding for her. Ashley claims that around 5 PM, Taylor got in an Uber and left, before a message from Taylor’s phone was sent to Kassandra, explaining that she needed some time to herself.
Police questioned Ashley, who repeated the story she had told Kassandra. While searching Kassandra’s home, they found a $19,000 cashiers check, which confused them, as Taylor supposedly had disappeared voluntarily. $19,000 is a lot of money to leave behind on purpose.
This resulted in Ashley being brought back in for questioning, with police confronting Ashley over holes in her story revealed by cell phone records from the day of her disappearance. Police determined that Ashley had begun a relationship with a local bar owner, paying many of his bills and even buying him a boat and a motorcycle. When a search warrant on a farm Ashley’s family owned turned up Taylor’s skeletal remains, Ashley was arrested on murder charges.
Ashley had been spending the money Taylor gave her on her boyfriend, and it was all gone by the time Taylor wanted it back. So, in order to stop Taylor from asking questions, Ashley drove her to the farm, shot her in the back of the head, and buried her in a shallow grave. Her boyfriend later sold the gun.
McArthur was able to evade capture in the murder for so long due to her background in CSI. She sent messages from Taylor’s phone to Kassandra and to herself, making it look like Taylor was still alive. Before the trial for Taylor’s murder, Ashley was actually found guilty of a different crime: she had skimmed thousands of dollars off of jukeboxes her family’s business rented out.
She was convicted on charges of racketeering and sentenced to several months in prison, and three months of probation. In her later case for Taylor’s murder, the jury found Ashley guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder. For this, she was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison. At the time of this writing, she is still imprisoned.