Crime Trackers

Jul 2, 2013 2:15 AM by Lupita Murillo

The tough transition from prison life to real life for Louis Taylor

TUCSON - Learning to live making one's own decisions about everything may not sound difficult. For someone who has spent nearly their entire life in prison it's a huge challenge. Just ask Louis Taylor.

At 16 he was arrested and charged with setting the Pioneer Hotel fire in 1970.

28 people died.

Taylor was convicted by an all white jury in Phoenix in 1972 and was sentenced to life in prison.

Nearly 30 years later the Arizona Justice Project looked into the case and spent a decade investigating.

Lawyers said newer fire techniques found the cause of the fire was "undetermined" and there was no proof that it had been arson.

In 2012, lawyers filed paperwork to get him released based on the new findings.

April 2013, Taylor pleaded "no contest" he was sentenced to time served and released.

After being released Louis Taylor got a job The Loft Cinema.

It's the first job for the 59-year-old.

"The transition has been great, just staying busy and trying to do a good job for Peggy," he says.

Peggy Johnson is Taylor's boss. His job entails everything from filling potholes to watering the plants and picking up the trash.

"People who come to the Loft all the time will notice when they drive up that things are better and that's Louis," Johnson says.

Johnson says she gave him his first job because she felt the need to help him, and he hasn't disappointed her.

"He's one of the most enthusiastic employees I've ever had, works hard and he takes a lot of pride in his work," she says.

There have been some challenges for Taylor.

"I'm behind 42 years in technology," he says.

Cell phones are a challenge and so are cars. He never learned to drive, since he went to prison at 16.

"I would rather drive my bike, it's healthier for you, and I don't know I don't think I want to learn how to drive a car," he says.

Taylor's mother, twin sister, and four other members of his family died while he was in prison. He never got to say goodbye to them.

"If I showed bitterness, and retribution, I'd be worse than the people who put me in there. I don't have ill feelings against anybody you know it just took 42 years to get out," he says.

Now he's making up for lost time.

He sees his brother every day and keeps in touch with his sister. He's dedicated to working with the Arizona Justice Project, and Frontline. They're responsible for his freedom.

"Trying to show gratitude, show them I am worthy and very good at work after all these years," he tells News 4.

For now, Louis Taylor is keeping it simple and taking it one day at a time.

If you have a story you want News 4 Tucson to look into, email Crimetrackers at kvoa.com.

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