A sailor earlier this month gunned down a woman he may have been “obsessed” with and had been tracking via her cellphone GPS data, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Clifton Jerome Taylor III, 19, is charged with second-degree murder and using a gun illegally in the April 25 shooting death of 19-year-old Haniah Sturdivant outside a Titustown area apartment complex, less than a half-mile south from Naval Station Norfolk.
Defense attorney Andrew Sacks said his client denies the allegations.
On Wednesday, Taylor went to court to try to get a bond that would have let him out of jail while his case proceeds, but District Judge Joseph Lindsey denied it.
A prosecutor and Taylor’s family told stories of what sounded like different people. His mother, Anicia Roundtree, traveled from Taylor’s hometown of Miami to attend Wednesday’s hearing. She told the judge her son graduated in 2019, a year early and in the top 12% of his class at Miami Central High School.
Taylor enlisted in the Navy six months later in November 2019, Roundtree said. He excelled in his two years in the service and had a top secret security clearance as an information systems technician with the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command.
While he was still in high school, Taylor volunteered at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville where his stepfather is a pastor. He also helped out in the community at large, including food drives for seniors.
“He’s lived an exemplary life,” Sacks said.
Then there’s the Clifton Taylor prosecutor Julie Fink described to the judge. Taylor met Sturdivant through some sort of Navy connection, although it was unclear exactly what that was.
On April 25, the two hung out at Busch Gardens In Williamsburg, along with Taylor’s friend from Miami, Fink said. Sturdivant left Busch Gardens to go to a party with her boyfriend, who, like Taylor, was an active duty sailor
At some point, Taylor threatened to hurt Sturdivant’s boyfriend, Fink said.
Detectives have found no evidence Taylor and Sturdivant were involved in a romantic relationship, Fink said. And Sacks told the court his client was married to another woman who was about to join the Air Force.
“We think he may have had some obsession with her,” Fink added.
Sturdivant went to the barbecue party with her boyfriend and, after they left, she agreed to meet with him again, this time at his apartment in the 900 block of Armfield Circle, just south of West Little Creek Road.
As Sturdivant was driving there, she received a text from Taylor. At 9:37 p.m., he asked her why she had turned off her cell phone location function, preventing him from tracking where she was, Fink said. Sturdivant hadn’t given him the access to her phone’s GPS data, and prosecutors believe he might have been using someone else’s phone to do so.
After talking with Taylor, Sturdivant’s friend, Jessica, called her around 10:44 p.m. Sturdivant told her Taylor had threatened to kill her boyfriend but promised to spare her life since it was her birthday the following week. As Sturdivant was pulling into her boyfriend’s apartment complex, she told Jessica she had just seen Taylor and two of his friends. Jessica asked which friends.
Then the phone call dropped.
Jessica called back, and Sturdivant answered. Jessica heard a physical altercation between her friend and someone Jessica believes was Taylor, Fink said. Around 10:54, she heard Sturdivant tell the person: “I have my best friend on the phone. Just stop. Just stop.”
Sturdivant’s boyfriend heard them, too. He told police there were five or six. He went to her vehicle, which was riddled with bullet holes. Inside, Sturdivant was bleeding but still alive, Fink said. She was shot five times: twice in the abdomen and once in the left forearm, left thigh and right thing.
Paramedics took Sturdivant to Sentara Norfolk General, where she died. Taylor was arrested 2½ weeks later.
Jonathan Edwards, 757-739-7180, firstname.lastname@example.org