FORT MYERS, Fla. – The murder. The arrests. All of it didn’t feel real to Taylor Shomaker until Wednesday.
It was her words that helped lead to the arrests of her then-boyfriend, Jimmy Ray Rodgers, his friend, Curtis Wayne Wright, and Wright’s childhood friend, Mark Sievers, in the June 2015 killing of Dr. Teresa Sievers.
The three men initially faced second-degree murder charges. Wright accepted a plea deal and is expected to testify against Rodgers and Mark Sievers, who were both indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges Wednesday.
Grand juries, which are usually held in secret, allow prosecutors to present their case to jurors, who then decide if there’s enough evidence to bring charges. In Florida, a grand jury indictment is required only for capital offenses – where the sentence could be the death penalty – but are also utilized in cases of alleged wrongdoing by public officials.
Wednesday’s indictment gives prosecutors the option to seek the death penalty against Rodgers and Mark Sievers.
Shomaker, who flew from Missouri, was in Fort Myers on Wednesday. She couldn’t say if she testified before jurors, or even if she was in the courtroom.
But in her first and only media interview, she talked about life before and after Rodgers’ trip to Florida.
“It was very scary when I first found out,” she said of the killing. “It was like…like I didn’t know what to do. I was scared. You find out something so horrible, and you’re just like this is real.”
Spiraling into a nightmare
Shomaker met Rodgers at a bar called Hub’s Pub in Bonne Terre, Mo., a small town about an hour south of St. Louis.
“He treated me like a queen,” she said. “Anything I ever needed, you know, he bought me and he took really good care of my kids, treated them like they were his children. It was like living in a dream.”
Their second date was at Wright’s trailer in Hillsboro, Mo., located 40 minutes north of Bonne Terre.
The two men met while in jail, said Shomaker, who described Wright as friendly and nerdy.
“I’d kind of describe him as a geek,” she said.
The two couples often hung out at each other’s homes.
“With my kids around,” she said. “I can’t believe my kids were around.”
Shomaker wasn’t impressed with Mark Sievers, who got into an argument with Rodgers over a parking space at Wright’s wedding.
“He was ignorant and I kind of just stayed away from him,” she said.
Shomaker thought Rodgers was traveling with Wright to Florida to commit burglaries and steal high-end antiques, she told investigators on Aug. 25, 2015, according to court documents.
She kissed Rodgers on the cheek before he left, then noticed he left his cell phone, which she thought was odd, according to court documents.
When he returned, Shomaker noticed a white cooler containing a cardboard box filled with items, including a pair of black shoes investigators determined were purchased at a Fort Myers Walmart.
Wright contacted Rodgers “in a frantic state” after a search warrant was executed at his home, she said in court documents.
After that phone call, a subsequent meeting at a bar, her helping Rodgers destroy items related to the trip, and investigators questioning Rodgers and Wright, Shomaker started putting pieces together.
“(Investigators) came and left me a card and (Rodgers) got rid of it,” Shomaker said Wednesday. “I didn’t know who to contact or anything, and then once I figured stuff out, I was just terrified.”
She immediately moved out of their home.
“I started staying with my mom, and he started asking questions,” she said. “He was like, ‘Why are you staying with your mom?’ I was like, in shock. I was like, ‘How could he do this? She was an innocent woman. How could you just go and do something like this? She was so innocent.’ I was terrified, I was in fear for my life and my kids. If I was to say anything to anybody, what would happen to us?”
Shomaker has three kids, including a two-month-old with Rodgers.
“It’s hard to look at her sometimes, because she looks so much like him,” she said. “I think, you know, in time I will be able to, you know, feel better. But it’s still just so hard until everything is completely, you know, said and done.”
Mark Sievers’ arrest didn’t surprise her, but she was floored when Rodgers and Wright were taken into custody.
“I didn’t want to believe it because they were so sweet and so kind to me and I never thought they’d do anything like that,” she said. “I’m just wondering how they can hide something like that, their aggression.”
Shomaker, who lost her home and car after Rodgers’ arrest, last spoke to him in March.
Rodgers was paying her bills.
She was scared not to speak to him.
“I know this is going to sound stupid, but maybe he had someone set up to do something to me and the kids if I didn’t talk to him,” she said. “Now I pretty much feel safe.”
Their conversation centered around his love for her and the children.
He didn’t seem angry, she said.
“He was very friendly, my whole family loved him, he was such a sweet guy,” she said. “I did not, did not think he would ever do something like this.”
Shomaker said she has since found it easier to talk about life, but her thoughts often turn to Teresa Sievers and her two daughters.
“I broke down in tears last night because of how bad I felt for them,” she said. “My children look up to me. I’m their everything, so I can only imagine how they feel.”
She wouldn’t say much about Rodgers’ life, other than he came from a rough childhood and that his parents died young.
Shomaker and Rodgers once talked about marriage. Now she wants to ensure he’s held responsible for his involvement in Teresa Sievers’ death.
“I just want everyone to know how sorry I am for the Sievers family and that like I said, I’m doing everything in my power to make sure these men are getting what they deserve,” she said.