Sunday, March 18, 2007

No arrests made in east-side slaying

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

It was loud yesterday evening at Lorena Taplin's house.
Her son, Ray Lee Taplin, was shot Friday - and last night, at least a hundred out-of-town relatives were milling around Mrs. Taplin's Barton Street property, trying to make sense of what happened.
The Temple police made no arrests yesterday regarding the Friday shooting on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that resulted in the death of the 42-year-old Ray Lee Taplin. They cited self-defense as a potential reason for the shooting because of the additional weapons they found at the crime scene.
'What the police are saying ain't right,' said Mrs. Taplin. 'He didn't go over there with no weapons. That's just not the kind of person he was. My boy never bothered nobody. He wasn't mixed up in gangs and never did anyhing to disrespect nobody.'
Mrs. Taplin and her family said the incident was not accidental.
'He was called over there,' Mrs. Taplin said, referring to phone call that was made to her residence early Friday morning. 'The number is still on the Caller ID.' '(She) asked him to talk, and then he was killed,' Mrs. Taplin said. 'It doesn't get more set up than that.'
The Temple police have interviewed the woman who reportedly made that phone call, but have not yet released her name. She reportedly was in the house at the time of Friday's shooting.
Taplin family members said they described her to police as Ray Taplin's former common-law wife. They said the man the police suspect of pulling the trigger is the woman's new boyfriend.
Lt. Edward Best, spokesman for the Temple police, said it would take a 'long, complicated' investigation to determine the circumstances behind the shooting.
Mrs. Taplin and her family said they understand the investigation will take time, but they said what they don't understand is why the Temple police aren't telling them anything.
'We want to know if it has anything to do with this,' said James Taplin, pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Reagan, a town outside of Marlin. He was pointing at a court summons issued to Ray Taplin.
James Taplin is one of Ray Taplin's three surviving brothers. One sister also survives Ray Taplin.
The Temple city court summons said Ray Taplin was charged with assault by contact and was ordered to appear in court on March 29. The signature of Municipal Court Judge Edgar Egeland rests on a line below the date stamp of March 15.
'It was signed Thursday,' said James Taplin. 'He was shot Friday. Mama didn't get (the summons) until after he was dead. It could be a big coincidence. But then again, it might not be. But the police won't tell us anything about it.'
The Temple police, on Saturday, said they could not release details about the charge or the summons to the Telegram.
James Taplin said the family has no idea what the charge could be about, explaining that Ray Taplin 'ain't never been in trouble with the police,' a claim that the Temple police would not confirm on Saturday.
The family describes Ray Taplin as a man who would never harm anyone.
'That boy didn't want to do anything but play dominoes,' said Ruby Jean Turner, an aunt from Dallas. 'He was about having fun.'
Cousin Buddy Love of Dallas agreed, adding that Ray Taplin loved soul food and blues music.
'We were domino buddies,' Love said. 'We were stuck like glue together. Always talking and playing cards or dominoes. He was about dominoes, not drugs or drinking.'
Love returned to Dallas on March 12 after a three-week stay in Temple to visit Ray Taplin.
'If I hadn't left, Ray would still be alive,' Love said. 'I could have talked him out of going over there to talk to that woman.'
Another cousin, Leo Evans of Temple, described Ray Taplin as a hard worker.
'He was going to start working at TMS on Monday. He ain't gonna have no chance to show how good he was,' Evans said. 'We was hired together to work there on a new job.'
TMS is Temple Machine Shop, a local hydraulics manufacturing and repair company.
Evans said he and Ray Taplin were looking forward to their new full-time gig after the completion of their last project of installing Sheetrock at Scott and White Memorial Hospital.
Mrs. Taplin said her son had held a variety of jobs during his life.
'He was in and out of work all the time,' Mrs. Taplin said. 'He would work at fast food places. Before Scott and White, he worked at Motel 6 for four years.'
Others describe the late Ray Taplin as a man who cared for his family and friends.
Kenetra Keith, 27, and her 29-year-old brother Kenneth said they were raised by Ray Taplin. They were at Mrs. Taplin's house Saturday evening.
'He was a family-oriented man who took care of me and my brother,' Kenetra Keith said. 'He's been there for us since I was 15.'
She explained that Ray Taplin was dating their mother, Linda Keith Trejo of Temple. Ms. Trejo could not be contacted for comment.
'He lived with us and was the dad we knew,' Kenetra Keith said.
Her brother, Kenneth, said he and his sister never lacked of anything.
'We were well taken care of. He always helped us with our homework,' Kenneth Keith said. 'We had everything we ever could have wanted.'
His mother said Ray Taplin was also a father. She said he leaves behind two daughters. Neither of the two daughters were with the family members at Mrs. Taplin's house Saturday night.
'One of the girls is ... 14,' Mrs. Taplin said. The second daughter is a 13-year-old girl. The girls had different mothers, she said.
'He loved his kids,' she said. 'The moms had custody of them, but they were close - Ray and his girls.'
Ira Lee Taplin, the father of the late Ray Taplin, was by himself at the side of the house watering plants and washing off a sidewalk. He was chuckling at 'the whole mess.'
He loved his son, but he said he wasn't surprised by the outcome of Friday's shooting.
'Women were trouble for that boy,' said Ira Taplin. His head shook as he rolled his eyes toward the sky. 'The boy ain't the baddest boy in the world and he wasn't the best boy in the world.'
The father said 'smoking joints was the only problem' he ever had while raising him.
He said his son had lived next door for seven or eight years but last month 'he had to move back in because he was running out of money.'
'I told him when he moved back in, 'If you move back in this house, you're not going to have no women here.' Grown people do not stay over at other grown people's houses,' Ira Taplin said. 'You can stay here while you get back on your feet, but you got to do something good with your life.'
Ray Taplin 'did OK playing dominoes sitting out on the porch,' his dad said, 'until some woman called him wanting to talk to him. See where that got him. He let a woman trap him.'
The elder Taplin was wearing a brightly colored flannel shirt, tan slacks and a red baseball cap. He shook his head, rolling his eyes and sighing, as he walked off with his water hose to continue his chores.
In a telephone interview, Lanny Cawthon said he was Ray Taplin's fifth-grade teacher at Meridith-Dunbar Elementary School and his assistant principal at Travis Middle School.
'We both have lived in Temple all these years,' Cawthon said. 'I frequently bumped into him. I saw him at the grocery store a lot.'
As a student, Cawthon said he earned good grades.
'To me, he was always a gentlemen,' Cawthon said. 'He was polite to other students, was courteous, would share and be helpful when something was asked of him.'
The retired teacher said the grown-up Ray Taplin was a mirror image of the lad he once taught.
'As an adult, Ray was polite and friendly,' Cawthon said. 'His being a gentleman never changed.'
Ray Taplin attended Temple schools until his freshman year of high school when he transferred to the Moody school district. He was a star running back at Moody High and graduated in 1984.
'He had his problems, but he was a good man,' said the soft-spoken Ida Foster of Temple, a family friend who was at Mrs. Taplin's house yesterday. 'He'll be sorely missed.'

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