Editor’s note: This story contains details of a graphic nature. Reader discretion is advised.
IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls man sat stonefaced as investigators and a witness testified of the night he allegedly slit the throat of a roommate and killed him.
Douglass Taylor, 32, appeared in a Bonneville County courtroom on Thursday for his preliminary hearing. Taylor is charged with first-degree murder. Investigators say that on March 10, 2020, he killed his 51-year-old roommate, Hermann Hans Woerrlein, originally from Germany. Woerrlein was traveling around the United States but had been living in the home for a few months.
Magistrate Judge Kent Gauchay determined there is enough probable cause to advance the case to the higher court.
Taylor, Woerrlein and others lived in a sober home for those with mental illnesses on the corner of Higbee Avenue and 17th Street. Around 10:30 p.m. that night, a roommate said he heard some commotion upstairs as he was getting ready for bed in the basement.
“No, please stop,” is what the roommate said he heard Woerrlein utter.
“I ran up the stairs, and I seen (sic) Douglass standing above Hans Woerrlein with blood on the floor,” the roommate said. “He had a knife in his hand, and he had been pulling it out of Hans Woerrlein’s neck. … He then ran through the house, dropped the knife in the living room and went out through the front door.”
The roommate immediately dialed 911. Fearing police would try to pin the crime on him, the roommate said he did not try to help Woerrlein as he bled out on the kitchen floor.
“He looked too far gone for me, and I didn’t want to touch him,” the roommate said.
An Idaho Falls Police officer was a few blocks away and rushed to the house where he found the roommate outside the front door. The officer testified that the roommate said Taylor had just stabbed Woerrlien. Once inside the house, police found the motionless body of Woerrlien. Medical staff at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center declared him dead.
Police found Taylor sitting behind Albertsons on 17th Street with blood-covered clothes. They took him to the county Law Enforcement Building for questioning.
“(Taylor) responded that he was responsible for the killing of Hermann Hans Woerrlein,” IFPD Detective Howard Schwicht said.
During the interview, Taylor told police Woerrlein was trying to start a new cult with Nazi German mythology and that he was a “young retard Hitler.” Taylor told Schwicht he is an atheist and did not tolerate proselytizing.
Talks of religion and secret societies were not uncommon inside the home. The roommate said Taylor, Woerrrlien and others would have in-depth discussions. Among the topics were the Illuminati, the occult and religions. The roommate said that there had not been any fights between Taylor and Woerrlien before the stabbing.
“Initially (Taylor said) he had a rationale for killing him, which he thought maybe a justification to his own way of thinking,” Schwicth said.
Dr. Nathaniel Patterson performed the autopsy on Woerrlein’s body two days after the slaying where he discovered 17 stab wounds and six slashes.
Taylor said he did not want to resuscitate Woerrlein after hurting him, according to police, and “he just wanted to put that thing down.”
Public Defender Jason Gustaves said although Taylor is charged with first-degree murder, there was no prior intent or premeditation to qualify the killing as such. Gustaves said Taylor told police at one point the killing was in the “spur of the moment.” Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Alex Muir disagreed, saying Taylor’s actions were thought about beforehand.
“The defendant acted without justification or excuse,” Judge Gauchay said. “I do believe that the defendant acted with malice and forethought and that the murder was a willful, deliberate and premeditated killing.”
With Gauchay’s ruling, Taylor will appear before District Judge Bruce Pickett on Feb. 2 and either plead guilty or not guilty to first-degree murder. After that, a sentencing or jury trial will be scheduled.
If convicted of first-degree murder, a judge could order Taylor to spend up to life in prison. The Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office said in court documents that it is not seeking the death penalty, citing Taylor’s mental illnesses as a mitigating factor.