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Speedy trial set for murder defendant arrested after escape from prisoner transport van
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Speedy trial set for murder defendant arrested after escape from prisoner transport van

Leon Taylor

Leon Taylor 

CROWN POINT — A judge granted a motion for a speedy trial Tuesday for a Hammond man accused of escaping last year from a prisoner transport van while the van's driver stopped at a fast-food drive-thru.

Leon Taylor, 23, is scheduled to face a jury during the first week of January on charges he murdered Daniel Nitzsche, 52, of Chicago, on Nov. 19, 2020, outside a building Nitzsche co-owned in the 700 block of West 150th Street in East Chicago.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to murder and murder in perpetration of robbery in Nitzsche's homicide. He's also facing a firearm enhancement, which could add an additional five to 20 years to a possible sentence if he's convicted of murder.

Taylor also has pleaded not guilty in either other felony cases, including five alleged robberies, and one burglary.

According to charging documents in the murder case, Taylor and an "unidentified" juvenile killed Nitzsche while robbing or attempting to rob him.

Defense attorney Angela Jones asked Judge Natalie Bokota to order the Lake County prosecutor's office to provide her with any information it has about the juvenile.

Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Jacob Brandewie said the state doesn't have any information about the juvenile's identity and Taylor would have more information about that person in his office.

This episode of the "Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops" series takes viewers behind the armored vehicles and shields to see what it's like to be a part of the Lake County Sheriff's SWAT team.

Bokota scheduled Taylor's next hearing for Dec. 7, when attorneys may discuss any pretrial matters in his murder case and the status of his other cases.  

Taylor was free on a $5,000 cash bond in his robbery and burglary cases when Nitzsche was killed, court records showed.

Prosecutors charged Taylor on Nov. 25 with murder, and he was arrested in Dallas County, Texas, in early December.

Taylor was being transported from O'Hare International Airport to the Lake County Jail on Dec. 7 when he escaped from a van operated by REDI Transports, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as the van's driver waited in a drive-thru lane at a Gary fast-food restaurant, police said.

After a two-week manhunt, authorities captured Taylor in East Chicago. He was charged in February with one felony count of escape. 

The court recently granted the state's request to revoke Taylor's bond in several of his pending felony cases.

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