Suspect identified in the 1963 unsolved murder of girl scout Peggy Beck

July 14, 2020

Peggy Beck

It was around midnight on August 18, 1963, Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” Beck unzipped her tent and crawled inside, ready to get some much-needed sleep. She was ushered back to her tent by the adults supervising the girl scout trip, following a campfire sing-along that cheerfully marked the end to a 5-day long camping trip in Pike National Forest, Colorado.

Peggy, a student at North Denver High School who lived with her parents and three sisters in Edgewood, had turned sixteen that year and was a first time counsellor for the Flying G Ranch Girl Scouts whom she had been with since she was 9 years old. She had been sharing her tent with her tentmate Claudia Shride, however that night Claudia was sleeping in the infirmary after coming down with a cold, leaving Peggy to camp alone. The nearest neighbouring tent was 30ft away.

The following morning Peggy missed breakfast.

Claudia returned to the tent from the infirmary to pack her bag for the journey home. Peggy was zipped up in her sleeping bag and did not rouse when her tentmate entered. Attempts to wake the teenager were unsuccessful and they would soon discover that she was dead.

The supervising scout leaders instructed Claudia to pack Peggy’s belongings. They dismantled her tent and cleaned the surrounding area, waiting eight hours before contacting the police.

Initially they believed that the sixteen-year-old had died in her sleep of natural causes, but later bruising began to develop around her throat, bruises indicative of strangulation. Her underwear and outer clothing had been torn and a coroner would later reveal that the teenager had been raped and strangled to death. She had skin under her fingernails indicating that she had fought against and scratched at her attacker in a desperate attempt to escape the cruel fate he had in store. Peggy’s tent was around 30 feet from the next with no tentmate to alert the adults for help. After her killer sexually assaulted and strangled Peggy he zipped her back up into her sleeping bag, an action that suggested this was not his first time committing such a crime.

Since the supervisors at the camp were unaware that one of their 24 girls had been murdered onsite, they contaminated the crime scene and any evidence that may have aided investigators in finding Peggy’s killer.

Later that day a tip came in regarding a man at a bus stop with scratches across his face who was questioned by the police and subsequently let go.

There were several suspects and false confessions over the years but ultimately no arrests were made, and the case inevitably went cold.

Both Peggy’s mother and father died without ever knowing what happened to her or seeing her killer being brought to justice.

In 2007 a profile for a male suspect was created using the DNA found under the victim’s nails. The profile was entered into CODIS but unfortunately turned up nothing. A more complete profile was created in 2019.

With the help of public genealogy databases, the suspect has been identified as James Raymond Taylor, a T.V repairman who lived in Edgewater at the time of the murder. He was born December 22, 1939 and if alive today, he would be 81 years old. He was 21 years old when he raped and murdered Peggy Beck. The authorities are having a difficult time locating him and there is speculation over whether the man is dead or alive. The last confirmed sighting of him was in Florida in 1976 and his family said they haven’t had contact with him for over 50 years.

Suspect identified in the 1963 unsolved murder of girl scout Peggy Beck

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Investigators do not know if there was a prior connection between the victim and her killer, however various media outlets have reported that Taylor was no stranger to the area the girls were camping in and had visited the area to set up and check on HAM radios.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office have issued a warrant for his arrest and anyone with information on the suspect is encouraged to call Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 303-271-5612 (Case 63-10335)

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