Speedy trial OK’d for Lake Co. murder suspect who fled transport van

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A murder suspect who escaped from a prisoner transport van last year when its driver stopped at a fast-food restaurant in northwest Indiana will stand trial in January in a Chicago man’s slaying.

A Lake County judge granted a motion for a speedy trial Tuesday for Leon Taylor, 23, and set a Jan. 4, 2022, trial date for the Hammond man, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty to murder and murder in perpetration of robbery in the November 2020, killing of Daniel Nitzsche, 52, outside a building Nitzsche co-owned in East Chicago.

Taylor was free on a $5,000 cash bond in cases involving numerous robbery and burglary charges when Nitzsche was killed, according to court records.

He was arrested in Dallas County, Texas, in December 2020. But as he was being transported from O’Hare International Airport to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point on Dec. 7, 2020, police said he escaped from a van by jumping through an open window as its driver waited in the drive-thru lane of a McDonald’s restaurant in Gary.

After a two-week manhunt, authorities captured Taylor in East Chicago. He was charged in February with one felony count of escape.

Taylor has pleaded not guilty in several other felony cases, including five armed robberies in northwest Indiana.

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