By BARBARA MaCDONALD
DALLAS (Court TV) — A Texas father is haunted by the death of his 26 year-old daughter, Taylor Gruwell. “I know how it happened. I know where it happened. I know when, I just don’t know why,” Rich Gruwell says about that September night in 2017 when Taylor Gruwell died after falling from the 5th floor of an Old Dallas luxury apartment building’s parking garage. As far as he knew she didn’t know anyone there and he couldn’t explain why she would have been there.
The Night Taylor Fell to Her Death
There are about 5 minutes that can’t be accounted for on the night of September 23, 2017, when Taylor Gruwell fell to her death, and those minutes have haunted her family ever since.
At 11:06 p.m. that Saturday night, Taylor’s body is captured on surveillance video falling to the ground in front of the exit gate of the luxury Icon at Ross apartments in Old Dallas. The video shows her lying there, unmoving for 16 minutes until the first passerby comes along. It was obvious to the witnesses who started gathering at the scene that Taylor’s injuries were extensive. Soon, the red and blue flashing lights of emergency vehicles would light up Hall Street, which runs along the northeast edge of the apartment complex. Just 30 minutes after her fall, Taylor is declared dead in the emergency room at Parkside Hospital. A nurse noted in her report that Taylor had redness and bruising around her neck, in addition to the obvious blunt-force injuries from her fall.
Because Taylor had nothing with her when she fell — no phone, no identification — she remained a Jane Doe for several days. Taylor was eventually identified through her fingerprints and her family was notified of her death by a detective with Dallas Homicide.
Taylor Wasn’t Alone the Night She Fell
Taylor’s family and friends immediately started piecing together what happened in the hours leading up to her fall.
Earlier that week, Taylor left the Sante Center for Healing in Argyle, Texas. Sante is a residential treatment facility where Taylor had been dealing with an addiction to prescription pills that flared up after her son was born. She had left early, angering her father, Rich Gruwell. When she called him asking for money that night, he told her to return to Sante.
After her death, Taylor’s father received a call from a former boyfriend who said he knew who Taylor was with the night she fell. He said Taylor and a man named Cody stopped by his house after Cody picked Taylor up from the Sante Center. The friend also said he had Cody’s phone number because Taylor had called him using Cody’s phone.
William Cody Marley was a friend of Taylor’s, whom she met in Sante. Like Taylor, Cody had left early, several days before Taylor. Surveillance video from Sante shows Taylor walking out and getting into a black sedan driven by Marley.
When Taylor’s father Rich Gruwell called Marley to see what he knew about Taylor’s fall, Marley said that Taylor had jumped and that he didn’t know why. Marley provided no details to explain such a shocking event.
Could Taylor Have Taken Her Own Life?
No one in Taylor’s family ever knew her to have thoughts about taking her own life. Kayla Darlington, Taylor’s closest sister, said no matter what was ever going on in Taylor’s life – from breakups to problems with substance abuse – Taylor never talked of ending it all. Even when she lost the ability to see her children because of her drug use, Darlington says Taylor was committed to getting better so that she could see her babies again. Laura Heinemann, Taylor’s best friend from childhood, agreed. Rich Gruwell says records he received from Taylor’s time at Sante Center also don’t mention any suicidal thoughts or ideation. Detectives looking through Taylor’s rehab file noted she had a history of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, “however there is no reported history of suicidal ideation or previous suicide attempts.”
The Surveillance Video
In November 2017, Dallas Police released portions of the surveillance video from inside the parking garage the night Taylor fell. Part of the video showed Cody Marley near his black sedan, talking with two men. Police wanted to identify those men, in case they had any information about Taylor’s death. But police also released a portion of the video that shows Taylor and Cody walking to his car together. Both Taylor’s sister and best friend say Taylor appears annoyed, frustrated or is arguing with Cody Marley.
“The very first part of the surveillance video with her walking with Cody, um, you can tell that she’s upset. You can tell that she’s not wanting to be with him at that moment. They’re arguing. Obviously, you can’t hear what they’re saying, but she’s pulling away from him. She’s rolling her eyes. Um, Taylor was annoyed,” recalls Kayla Darlington, Taylor’s sister.
Taylor’s best friend Laura Heinemann agrees. “Her body language, she just seemed very annoyed, like she wanted to be out of there, was tired of being there. Like, “Okay, let’s go, like, I don’t want to spend any more time here.”
Did Taylor Have Injuries Inconsistent With Her Fall?
More than two years after Taylor’s death, Rich Gruwell received a call from a podcaster, Leah Dee. Dee hosts the “Least of These“ podcast. Gruwell shared with Dee that he had received Taylor’s case file from Dallas Homicide, but had never looked inside the large manila envelope after a clerk at Dallas Police told him there were crime scene photos inside. “She told me I probably didn’t want to see those, so I put the envelope in the garage for years until Leah called,” Gruwell said.
When Dee started going through the file, she said she was shocked at what she learned. First, Taylor appears to have injuries inconsistent with her fall. “I was stunned, right there in the photos you can see Taylor has what I would consider defensive wounds on her hands… the tops of her hands,” Dee recalls. Dee says that’s significant, because in the surveillance video of Taylor falling to the ground, once she lands, there’s no movement from Taylor. “Taylor landed face down, palms down. So how would she have gotten such severe injuries to her knuckles?” Dee asks.
“Taylor also had redness and bruising to her neck that’s visible in the photographs,” Dee notes. A hospital report included in Taylor’s case file reveals a nurse noted the redness and bruising to Taylor’s neck, but the autopsy done several days later did not note anything about Taylor’s neck.
What Cody Marley Says About Taylor’s Fall
Taylor’s case file also contains a report about Cody Marley’s interaction with police three days after Taylor’s fall. Marley was found intoxicated in his black sedan along the side of the road. He immediately started asking the officers if they knew about his friend who had jumped from a parking garage three days before. He was asking if they knew whether Taylor had died. The officers were not familiar with the case, so one of the EMT’s at the scene Googled it.
According to the report, “Witness then elaborated that an unknown detective had phoned his mother and wanted to speak with him. Witness stated that the detective said that “I’m the prime suspect’, but man I had nothing to do with her jumping. ‘man she has two beautiful kids, and I can’t believe she did that?’ (The) witness stated that he left the suspect in his car with his dog while he went up to his friend apt. When he returned, she was gone. Witness then went on to say that, he looked for the witness for about 2 hours but could not find her. Witness was rambling about he and the female by the name of (Taylor, G.) argued earlier. Witness was intoxicated as he was talking with officers.”
In addition to Marley’s words, during that police encounter, it was documented that he was injured. Police noted a large bump on his forehead and cuts and scrapes to his face. Marley was taken to Dallas Homicide for questioning, and his car was impounded.
Once at the police department, Marley said he wouldn’t answer any questions without an attorney. His phone was confiscated and he was allowed to leave.
Two weeks later, Marley issued a written statement to police through his attorney Scott Palmer. In it, Marley says he and Taylor had gone to his friend’s apartment complex that night because Marley wanted to see his friend’s new car. Marley says he was fighting with his girlfriend because she had called and heard Taylor’s voice in the background and got upset that he was with another girl.
“We argued and she said she was going to bring my dog to where I was. I told her I was at my friend’s apartment looking at his car so she said she was coming there with my dog. My girlfriend brought my dog. We argued some more and she left. I went back up to my friend’s car in parking garage and put Blaze in the car. Blaze started barking so I decided to drive my car up to top of parking garage so he could get out and play with Taylor while I finished visiting with my friend. I left Taylor and my dog and said I would be back. After I finished visiting with my friend, I went back to top of garage. My dog was in back seat and I couldn’t find Taylor. I put Blaze on leash and walked around complex with my dog looking for Taylor. I called her name and decided to go back up to my car. I got back in car and drove around the apartments and about 2 or 3 blacks looking for her. When I couldn’t find her, I left and went to my Girlfriends to talk to her and try to work things out. Taylor was a very special person to me. We bonded during *REDACTED*. She always told me how much she loved her two kids. I’m devastated that her kids will grow up without her. -William Cody Marley”
Marley’s Statement Doesn’t Match Surveillance Video
Both Marley’s verbal account and written statement don’t match the surveillance video from the parking garage. After Taylor’s fall, surveillance video shows a man matching Marley’s description, wearing similar clothing as Marley was seen wearing earlier in the videos and walking a large dog on a leash. The man is wearing a ball cap, pulled down low on his face. The man and dog walk through the middle of the scene, where paramedics and other first responders are talking to witnesses and packing up. Taylor had already been taken away by ambulance, but you can see a pool of blood and paper items left behind by EMTs. The man matching Marley walks through the scene, pauses to look at the pool of blood, and then speaks briefly with another man with a dog on the sidewalk. After a few seconds, the man appearing to be Marley walks out of the frame.
Marley told police when he was stopped for public drunkenness that he looked for Taylor for 2 hours. In his written statement, he said he put his dog on a leash and together they walked around the apartment complex and surrounding neighborhood looking for Taylor.
If Marley is trying to find Taylor, why didn’t he talk with first responders at the scene? Remember, Taylor Gruwell had no identification or phone with her when she fell, and she remained a Jane Doe until she was identified through fingerprints. But Marley never reported to those first responders that his good friend Taylor Gruwell was missing. Taylor remained a Jane Doe in the morgue for three days until she was identified through fingerprints.
Who Was Taylor Gruwell?
Taylor Gruwell was 26 when she died. She was Rich Gruwell’s second daughter and was raised in blended families after her parents divorced when she was young. Raised near Muncie, Indiana and Dallas, Texas, Taylor was a good student, who excelled at sports. While in Indiana, she fell in love with John Miller. They married and had two children, a daughter and a son. Taylor’s sister Kayla Darlington believes she struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of her son, and that’s what led her to begin abusing prescription pills again.
Taylor’s father Rich Gruwell says during visits with Taylor while in rehab, the only thing she talked about was finishing the program and seeing her kids again.
How the Investigation Into Taylor Gruwell’s Death Stalled
Taylor Gruwell died from blunt force trauma caused by falling from the 5th floor of a parking garage. She had multiple broken bones, lacerations, and contusions from the fall. But the medical examiner was not able to make a determination about the manner of her death. Unable to determine if her death was a homicide, suicide or accident, Dr. Stephen Hastings ruled her cause of death as “undetermined”.
In 2022, a cold case investigator was assigned to relook at Taylor’s case. Detective Clark spoke with Dr. Hastings and noted this in his report:
Dr. Hastings stated he would look at the case again if new evidence was discovered, but stated it would have to be beyond a reasonable doubt to change his determination (Confession or video).
Rich Gruwell says he’ll never stop seeking justice for Taylor.
“She didn’t die in peace. When she was fighting for her life on the top of that garage, she was trying not to die. She’s not gonna lie in peace until it’s decided what happened. And knowing my daughter the way I knew her, as tough as she was, I don’t think she’s, wherever she is, I don’t think she’s saying stop. I think she’s telling me to keep going,”
If you have information related to the death of Taylor Gruwell, please contact:
Dallas Police Homicide Division: (214) 671-3584
Tips may also be left through the Crime Stoppers Hotline:
Phone: (877) 373-TIPS (8477)
***Correction: A previous version of this story said Taylor was Rich Gruwell’s first daughter, when in fact she was his second daughter.