RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – An 18-year-old woman is in jail for murder and friends of a 69-year-old man are grieving. Police said James Taylor was left for dead in a Raleigh cemetery Friday night.
As friends gathered on Memorial Day to fly radio control model airplanes, their hearts were heavy.
“I’ve been thinking about him a lot today,” said David Hogue.
The community that flies the model planes is close-knit. James Taylor, better known as J.T., was well-known and loved.
“We talked airplanes and helicopters and flying and trying to get each other to be the best person they could be,” said friend Steve Conerly.
Hogue described his friend as “one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Always willing to help you, always willing to loan you any tools. He’d give you the shirt off his back, quite literally, if you needed it.”
Hogue and Conerly are now members of the Johnston County Aeromodeling Club, a sanctioned club of the academy of model aeronautics. Taylor was a member of the Raleigh Aero Masters, but the three flew together for years. Conerly and Hogue admired Taylor’s skill and appreciated his friendship.
“He was an ambassador for the hobby,” Hogue said.
“I always thought I could go fly with him again, and I can’t,” Conerly added.
Friday night, Raleigh police said Taylor was found badly injured at Mt. Olivet cemetery on State Farm Road. He died at the hospital.
An 18-year-old-woman, Maria Pena-Echaverria, was charged with murder. Police said they are not releasing the cause of death at this time because they do not want to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
“It’s like just disbelief,” Conerly said about learning of his friend’s murder.
“You never expect it to be someone you know,” Hogue added.
His friends can’t understand how something like this could happen. All they know is how much it hurts to lose him.
“I’m just gonna miss him,” Conerly said. “A big part of the community’s gone.”