TPD Arrests Wrongly Jailed Pioneer Hotel Fire Suspect For Riverpark Inn Armed Robbery

Louis Taylor

Tucson Police have arrested Louis Taylor in connection with the Riverpark Inn armed robbery in June. Taylor, who was wrongly accused of starting the Pioneer Hotel fire in 1970, threatened a clerk at the Inn with a baseball bat as he demanded money from the register.

Taylor was convicted for starting the fire and served 42 years in prison. In 2013, Arizona Justice Project investigators discovered “evidence that was never disclosed to Taylor’s attorney and confirming the snitch testimony leading to Taylor’s conviction was false. A national Arson Review Committee, led by John Lentini, reviewed the evidence and expert conclusions made in 1972 used to convict Taylor. After applying today’s standards of fire investigation, the Committee concluded there was no evidence to support the finding that the cause of the fire was arson.

The Tucson Fire Department also conducted its own review and concluded the cause of the fire was “undetermined.”

Despite the mountain of evidence of his innocence, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall forced Taylor to plead no contest in exchange for his immediate release from prison. With a plea of no contest, Taylor was unable to seek relief for the injustice he experienced.

In June 2016, Christopher Cole, of the Libertarian Party confronted the Pima County supervisors with the injustice done to Taylor by County leaders:

On a bus ride down here I met a man a few years younger than I am, and Mr. Carroll saw us chatting just outside the building here and waved ‘hi’ at us. That man, in 1970, was convicted – railroaded – for the fire at the Pioneer Hotel. Forty-two years he spent in prison. Cheated of that much of his life by a justice system that obviously then was corrupt and probably still is. He is homeless.

Pima County owes him. Pima County a lot. They won’t pay. You haven’t paid, but Mr. Huckelberry’s crony runs his bicycle into a pothole on a bicycle path and I forget how many millions the settlement was for, but I understand that has already been paid. I may be wrong, but probably not. You owe that man – unfortunately I have forgotten his name, who was wrongfully convicted – railroaded, and had so much of his life stolen from him.

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