MARQUETTE - Fourteen years ago Wednesday, the body of Erin Rebecca Taylor, 24, was found in the woods off of Marquette County Road 492 in Negaunee Township - nine days after she was reported missing.
Taylor, of 1741 Wright St. in Marquette, was last seen Aug. 11, 2000, and was found Aug. 20, 2000 by a Marquette County Sheriff's Office deputy about 100 yards north of County Road 492, about 1.5 miles east of the M-35 intersection and a mile west of the Marquette Township line. An autopsy confirmed Taylor had been murdered.
The case remains unsolved despite the efforts of local law enforcement and Taylor's best friend and witness in the case, Bonnie Dowd, who continues to seek justice for her friend. She returns annually from where she now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, to revisit the site where the body was discovered, which she maintains as a memorial. There is no other grave, she said.
Bonnie Dowd releases balloons carrying messages of love and remembrance Wednesday at the memorial site of Erin Taylor, a friend she lost 14 years ago. (Journal photo by Mary Wardell)
Bonnie Dowd returns to the place Taylor’s body was found every year to remember the loss of her friend. She brought new crosses this year because the old ones were starting to decay. (Journal photo by Mary Wardell)
Bonnie Dowd keeps a scrapbook of memories with pictures, notes, mementos, newspaper clippings and a poem her mother wrote for Taylor, which she shows above. (Journal photo by Mary Wardell)
"She'd give you the shirt off her back," Dowd remembered of Taylor.
Despite following many leads and scenarios for different suspects, the case has grown cold, according to Marquette City Police Department Chief Mike Angeli, who worked on the case in 2000.
"It's always an open case, but it only would be worked on if something new came forward, and we've covered all the bases as far as I can tell," Angeli said. "At this point, there really is nowhere else to look. And unless something significant develops, it will remain a cold case."
Dowd said she isn't satisfied with that.
"Now that it's been passed over, I'm angry. I'm very angry," Dowd said. "I'm thinking that it's not going anywhere. I'm thinking it's just sitting on a shelf."
Dowd has spent the last six years studying forensic science and will be starting at the Madison Police Academy next fall to bring about justice for others, she said.
"I know I'm never going to touch this case," Dowd said. "I don't need to, I don't want to - those photographs I don't want to see. But yeah, people need justice in their life, and I know how hard it is to sit here on this end, so that's my goal."
Taylor and Dowd loved going on trips around the Upper Peninsula, she said, which now constitute Dowd's fondest memories of the two of them.
"We would just look at each other and say, 'Road trip? Road trip,'" Dowd said. "And we would get in the car and just go. That was the best time, because we had some tapes that we put in the car, and it was our Michigan mixed tapes. Put 'em in, let's go."
Dowd said she has recently had the privilege of talking online with another friend of Taylor's.
"Sharing stories with somebody that actually knew her, that knew the real Erin," Dowd said, trailing off and bowing her head. "It's nice to get to know someone who knew Erin."
Two days before Taylor was killed, she wrote Dowd a note that Dowd keeps in a book full of pictures and mementos from their time together. The note says in part: "I will always be in your heart. You know that."
Dowd said she can't be sure if Taylor knew she was in trouble, but regardless, the note carries great significance for her as she still grieves the loss of her best friend.
"I see signs everywhere," Dowd said, surveying the greenery around the site. "She's here ... I feel it here the most."