Three years after Roger Loyd Taylor vanished, pastor James Eric Crisp walked into a Mississippi sheriff’s office and confessed to killing him.
Announcing the astonishing 30 August confession in a statement, Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook struck an almost appreciative tone, saying Crisp chose to “give up his personal freedom in order to re-gain his spiritual freedom and hopefully help bring closure to this case for the sake of himself and the Taylor family”.
Mr Crook described how 37-year-old Crisp claimed he became a “believer in Jesus Christ” in the wake of the killing, becoming a minister at God’s House of Hope, a recovery centre in Kilmichael. There, the sheriff said, Crisp “began to come under heavy conviction about the incident”.
But Taylor’s daughter, BreAnn, isn’t buying Crisp’s supposed transformation.
Speaking to The Independent on Monday, BreAnn told how Crisp had purported to help look for her father after he vanished on 10 March 2019 and repeatedly assured her that he didn’t have anything to do with Taylor’s disappearance - all while knowing exactly what had happened to the 48-year-old of Sulligent, Alabama.
“He said: ‘Bre, I would never do something like that to you. Whoever did this, they deserved more than just prison,” BreAnn said six days on from the confession. “He said: ‘They deserve to die themselves.’ But now that he’s come [forward] with it, he wants to say, ‘I found Jesus, I am reformed.’”
The search for Taylor had gone cold shortly after his car was found two days after he vanished, leaving police with no leads until Crisp, who has a lengthy criminal history of drug offences, walked into the sheriff’s office.
Crisp was charged with manslaughter and booked into Monroe County Jail on $150,000 bond. The sheriff’s department said that Crisp was cooperating to find the remains of Taylor, who left behind four children.
BreAnn, 26, said her father and Crisp did not have a close relationship, but in the days after Taylor vanished, his alleged killer joined the search.
“He helped me look for my dad … he knew when he was helping me look for my dad what he had done,” she said.
It wasn’t until she started receiving extortion messages asking for money and referencing her father, that BreAnn decided to question everybody in her circle, including Crisp, she said.
BreAnn said her father and Crisp met each other through her as her boyfriend at the time was the pastor’s best friend. After the investigation into Taylor’s disappearance fell behind without leads, Crisp was arrested for drug offences.
“I treated [Crisp] like he was a member of my family. Even after he was in prison, I picked him up from a bus station so he didn’t have to spend the night [there] when he got out of prison,” she added.
“Whenever his family shunned him, I made sure he got somewhere to go so he didn’t go to the streets....I put money on his phone so he could send messages to his kids.”
According to local news station WCBI, Crisp faced more than 30 years in prison for the drug crimes but turned his life around and fought his addiction issues after joining God’s House of Hope, where he eventually became a pastor.
BreAnn said she confronted Crisp on Saturday, four days after the confession. The interaction, she said, convinced her that he didn’t have any remorse as he gave off a cold demeanour.
“It’s been three years and they want to play this row of ‘he’s reformed,’ but if he was so reformed he would have remorse for what he did,” she said.
“He looked me in my eye and told me he killed my dad ... He didn’t say he was sorry, he just said that he hoped one day I could find it in my heart to forgive him, but he never even say he was sorry.”
She added: “He didn’t have any emotions. He was outside of the room and he was laughing with the jailer and walked in and acted all stone cold with me.”
“I asked him, ‘Are you hiding behind this Jesus stuff,’ and he said ‘Yes, Amen.’ All he would say to me was, ‘Yes, Amen.’”
BreAnn told The Independent several people in Monroe County had noted to her a possible reason for Crisp’s sudden flash of conscience was that one of his children had threatened to speak up about his involvement in Taylor’s killing.
“I believe if that’s true, that’s the only reason Eric came forward,” she said.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has said the investigation is ongoing.
“We are glad for Mr. Crisp to get this off his chest so that he might be able to continue to do ministry wherever the Lord has planned for him, but this does not close the case for us,” the department said in a statement. “Investigators for MCSO will look at this new evidence and determine if there should be any other charges or new suspects.”
BreAnn said her family was looking forward to finding her father, and voiced her concern that Crisp could be released on bail before that happens.
“Until he cannot physically give us my dad, he deserves to sit in jail,” she said. “If we can’t have his body back, we won’t have closure.”