In December 2020, Los Angeles Fire Department resoonded to a potential gas leak in Lancaster, California. Nothing could have prepared them for what they discovered in the suburban home: two children, decapitated, in separate rooms while the rest of their family sat inside the property.
The father of the two children, fitness instructor Maurice Taylor Sr, 35, was taken in by police for questioning on 4 December and charged with the murder of his children Maliaka Taylor, 13, and Maurice Taylor Jr, 12.
According to prosecutors, Mr Taylor Sr was accused of decapitating the youngsters and making his other children, who were 8 and 9 years old at the time, look at the bodies.
The murdered children were discovered five days after they had been beheaded in their California home on 29 November, 2020.
This week, the case unfolded further as the mother of the children, Natalie Brothwell, was arrested at her home in Tucson, Arizona, on two counts of murder.
Ms Brothwell, 44, is being held at the Pima County Jail before her extradition to California.
In a release given at the time regarding the discovery of the bodies during the callout for a suspected gas leak, Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau said: “Fire personnel responded and made entry into the location, at which time they saw a male and a female deceased inside the location. Both appeared to be suffering from lacerations and stab wounds.”
Mr Taylor Sr, a former fitness instructor, remains in custody, with a bail of $4.2 million.
It is so far unclear as to why the police have arrested Ms Brothwell so long after the father’s arrest, and what her role was in her children’s deaths.
Ms Brothwell has separately been charged with two counts of felony child endangerment. Her children were allegedly forced to stay in their rooms without food for several days, according to prosecutors.
During Mr Taylor Sr’s arraignment, he explained that he wanted to “represent himself” and did not agree to an attorney. “God is telling me to represent myself in this matter,” he said after he was appointed a state attorney, “I feel disrespected that the council won’t respect my decision”.
After being asked about his education he said: “I’m with the American College of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer… it’s the top examination you can get for being a personal trainer.” Taylor could face up to 57 years to life in state prison.
A former neighbour of the family told Dailymail.com in December, “I remember when each of the four kids were born and I remember the excitement there was surrounding them.
“As they grew up, it was obvious they had a sense for adventure and new experiences, even at a young age. Maliaka was very smart, very adventurous and observant. She really would have grown to reach her potential.
“Mo Jr. looked up to his big sister and admired all she did. I’m sure they stuck very close to each other as they grew older and I know they were together in the end. I will always remember their smiling faces.”
Lynn Mullineaux, a friend of the children’s maternal grandmother, Debra Brothwell, told ABC7 news that extended members of the family were pushed away due to a controlling father.
They were “taken from their lives by a controlling son-in-law,” she said. “She has made pleas for any information, any knowledge, any information that she could find to know that her grandchildren were OK,” said Ms Mullineaux of the grandmother.
Several clients told The Los Angeles Times that Mr Taylor Sr was a diligent and hardworking trainer. Howard Kern, an attorney, had seen the trainer for several years.
“Think of the nicest person that you know, then multiply that by five,” Kern said. “He worked so hard to support himself. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough to say what happened or what didn’t happen,” he said.
Mr Kern had witnessed phone arguments between Mr Taylor and his partner Ms Brothwell. “It was embarrassing – you could hear her yelling at him,” said Kern. “He’d be very apologetic and she’d be yelling at him.”
The Independent has contacted LA County Police for more details on the investigation.