The McCrary family was a classic organization of relatives by birth and marriage that engaged in a crime spree reminiscent of many of the infamous American gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. However, this felonious family separated themselves from all previous gangs by their incredible obsession with serial murder. From August 1971 until February 1972, the McCrary family was responsible for at least twenty-two abductions and murders, dozens of robberies, and countless other offenses, constituting a crime spree that ranks among the most intense and lethal in the history of American criminology.
Headed by the husband-and-wife team of Carolyn and Sherman McCrary, this lethal family also included the McCrarys' daughter, Ginger Taylor, their son-in-law, Raymond Carl Taylor, and their son, Daniel. Beginning in late 1971, the five McCrary family members rampaged across several states in a crime spree that involved burglary, robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and relentless murder. (Some alternate photos of the mother, father, daughter,and son-in-law.)
The McCrary crime saga began as a series of armed robberies committed by Sherman McCrary and Raymond Taylor prior to 1971. According to later court testimony, Sherman McCrary perpetrated his first felony in Texas while suffering an extended period of unemployment. With Robert Taylor as his accomplice, McCrary committed armed robbery in what he claimed was a desperate effort to provide income for his family. However, Taylor and McCrary were not successful in their early attempts at a life of crime and instead were promptly arrested for their efforts. Court records indicate that Sherman McCrary's claim to a sudden life of crime may have been less than the full truth; both McCrary and Taylor had also served time in prison for a variety of other offenses, including burglary and forgery, in the Athens, Texas, area.
By August 1971, Sherman McCrary and Raymond Taylor had gained their freedom and the McCrary family was together once again. The McCrarys quickly settled on a new course of criminal activity that they viewed as potentially more prosperous than their former careers -- kidnapping and extortion. On August 17, 1971, the family, led by Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor, held up a Salt Lake City bakery at gunpoint, collecting the cash on hand and abducting a seventeen-year-old female employee named Sheri Martin. The McCrary family transported their teenage hostage to Nevada by car, raping her repeatedly along the way. Martin was then shot and her body was dumped by the side of a road near Wendover, Nevada, becoming the first known victim of the McCrary family. Her abduction and murder established a method of operation that the murderous family would use almost exclusively for the next six months.
Three days later, on August 20, 1971, the family was in Denver, Colorado. There they robbed another store and abducted an employee, Leeora Looney. Once again, the McCrary family raped and murdered their captive, using the same weapon that had killed Sheri Martin -- a 32-caliber revolver. For the next several months, the McCrarys continued this pattern of robbery, abduction, and murder, ranging from Florida to California. Each of their victims was sexually assaulted and murdered with the same small-caliber weapon. In addition to the rampage of serial murders, the McCrarys committed a variety of other felonies, often netting a very small reward for the incredible mayhem they created. Throughout the crime spree, Carolyn McCrary and Ginger Taylor provided support to the primary perpetrators, Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor. However, it is uncertain if they directly participated in any of the murders, whose vicious nature became the McCrary family trademark.
The McCrary murder and crime spree came to an abrupt end near Santa Barbara, California, in June 1972. While attempting to rob a supermarket at gunpoint, the McCrary men and Raymond Taylor were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a law enforcement officer. The responding officer was wounded in a shoot-out in front of the supermarket as the robbers tried to flee the crime scene. Even though the McCrarys and Taylor managed to escape, witnesses to the robbery were able to provide a description of the vehicle and its license plate number.
Police quickly located the McCrary family in Goleta, California, and arrested all five members. Taylor and the McCrary men immediately pled guilty to several robberies in an attempt to deflect attention from their dozens of murders. Carolyn McCrary and her daughter were charged with harboring fugitives and several other minor offenses. Although they were convicted on charges of armed robbery and imprisoned, the McCrary men and Raymond Taylor were unable to avoid their murderous history for long.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to link Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor to the murder of Leeora Looney and at least ten other women in several states. FBI investigators also believed that the McCrary family had been involved in as many as a dozen other unsolved murders between August 1971 and February 1972. Carolyn McCrary and Ginger Taylor, who had already been imprisoned for earlier charges in connection with several robberies, were believed to be accomplices in several murders, although it proved impossible to produce sufficient evidence to indict them on charges of homicide. By the end of 1972, all five members of the McCrary family serial killing team had received prison sentences ranging from five years to life in prison.
From Murder Most Rare by Michael D. Kelleher and C.L. Kelleher
There is a book about this case, Death Roads by Orvel Trainer (Pruett Publishing Company, Boulder, CO, 1979) -- this book is extremely rare.