This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Tim Hahn on Aug. 3, 2018
Authorities have solved one of two mysteries surrounding the discovery of a body in a shallow grave behind a west Erie apartment house on July 14.
Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook said Thursday that his office has identified the body as Vincent Force, 85, who was reported missing to the Millcreek Township Police Department on July 13. Cook said the identification was made based on information from different sources.
Still unknown on Thursday was what caused Force’s death. Cook said his ruling is pending the completion of additional work by Erie County Forensic Pathologist Eric Vey, M.D.
Authorities had suspected that the body found behind 229-231 W. Fifth St. was Force based on information provided by two residents of the apartment house who said they were caring for Force and who admitted to burying the body. Elizabeth D. Taylor, 28, and Antonio D. McLaurin, 33, both told investigators that Force died on June 18, and that his body was wrapped in plastic and garbage bags and buried in the backyard of the West Fifth Street apartment house, according to information in the criminal complaints filed against them.
Investigators said Taylor and McLaurin also told them that Force was scalded while in their care, and that Taylor said McLaurin intentionally scalded Force in the shower.
Taylor and McLaurin remain in the Erie County Prison on $300,000 bond apiece. They are each charged with neglect of care-dependent person, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.
Taylor and McLaurin were scheduled to appear in court for their preliminary hearings on Thursday morning, but the hearings were continued and are now scheduled for Sept. 13.
The investigation that led to the discovery of Force’s body was launched on May 29, when an older adult protective services employee with the Greater Erie Community Action Committee received a report of neglect and exploitation concerning Force and attempted to locate him at the West Fifth Street apartment house and at the Thunderbird Motel in Millcreek Township. The employee sent a letter to Taylor a month later, regarding the location of Force, Erie police detectives wrote in the affidavit of probable cause filed with the criminal complaints.
The employee filed a missing person report concerning Force with Millcreek police on July 13. Authorities received information later that day indicating that Force had died “due to injuries sustained from scalding water and bed sores,” according to the affidavit. Detectives spoke to Taylor and McLaurin on July 14, and during those interviews, the two stated that Force was dead, his body was wrapped and was buried behind the West Fifth Street apartment house. A search warrant was served on the property and the body was recovered on the afternoon of July 14.
Investigators have said that they were checking cell phone records and Force’s financial records as part of the death probe. McLaurin and Taylor both told detectives that McLaurin had withdrawn money with Force’s ATM cards.
Erie police detectives are wrapping up their part of the investigation into Force’s death while awaiting a ruling from the Coroner’s Office on the cause of death, Lt. Jon Peters said Thursday.
Cook said no one came forward to claim Force’s body, so he obtained a court order to have it listed as unclaimed and to have the body cremated. The ashes will be interred at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Bridgeville, a military cemetery, as Force was a military veteran, he said.