Suspect ID’d in Oldest Cold Case Ever by DNA in Murder of Girl Scout

Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Genealogy databases continue to contribute to helping solve older cold cases via DNA through national criminal databases, and now the oldest case ever has identified a suspect in the 1963 murder of a teenage Girl Scout in Colorado.

Authorities are seeking the public’s help in finding him.

Colorado: 1963 murder of teen Girl Scout

In the mountains southwest of Denver, on the morning of August 18, 1963, a young counselor named Margaret “Peggy” Beck, a 16-year-old from Edgewater, was part of the staff at a Girl Scout camp near Deckers. Peggy had been in the scout since she was nine years old and was excited to now be working as a counselor.

But on this summer morning, Peggy hadn’t been seen and didn’t show up for breakfast. Peggy’s tent mate went to check on her.

As it turned out, Peggy’s tent mate was feeling ill the prior evening and had spent the night in the infirmary – which left Peggy sleeping in the tent alone. Peggy’s tent mate found her unresponsive and she summoned other personnel for help.

When authorities arrived, they determined that Peggy had been strangled and assaulted in the middle of the night. No one had heard or seen anything while Peggy was killed inside her tent.

Police hunt for clues

In the aftermath of the murder, police were unable to establish a solid suspect and eventually ran out of clues. The case went cold.

In 2007, law enforcement collected scrapings from under Margaret Beck’s fingernails and submitted them for DNA testing. From the evidence gathered, the investigators created a DNA profile and submitted it to a national database. However, they found nothing.

DNA identifies suspect after 56 years

Not giving up on trying to solve the cold case of Margaret Beck’s murder, in 2019, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office tried a new method of DNA technology using ancestry databases. This time they got a match.

The genealogy profile led investigators to a potential suspect: James Raymond Taylor, a man who was in his 20s and living in Colorado at the time of Beck’s murder. Authorities issued an arrest warrant last week.

However, authorities have no idea where Taylor is.

In the 1960s, Taylor lived in Edgewater, Colorado, and worked as a TV repairman. He was married at the time. He was known to have a child in Colorado.

The last known address investigators have been able to trace Taylor to was the Las Vegas area in 1976, where he built up a rap sheet with law enforcement. Beyond that time, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Still, it should be noted that investigators have no known connection for Taylor to Beck or to the Girl Scout camp. However, Taylor was known to be in the area near the camp before August 1963.

Authorities seek public’s help in locating Taylor

James Edward Taylor would be 80 years old now. Authorities are urging anyone who has information about Taylor to call the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office tip line at (303) 271-5612 or Metro Denver Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-7867.

Tips can be made anonymously and anyone making contact is asked to reference case 63-10335.