Plans changed abruptly on eventful birthday for Polk County Sheriff

Published 2:08 pm Friday, March 13, 2009

The search for Taylor continued throughout the day with officers calling in assistance from many area agencies, including all law enforcement in Polk County and from Spartanburg County, S.C. and Rutherford and Henderson counties. A helicopter was also called in to assist in the search from the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Later in the day, the sheriff&squo;s office was alerted that warrants needed to be issued on a former Polk County tax office employee charged with embezzlement of county funds. Jenny Riddle Zieler was charged yesterday morning with felony embezzlement by a local officer/employee.

Several other arrests were made Wednesday, some by officers who were setting up check points in connection with the Taylor search throughout the county.

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Law enforcement set up road blocks to check vehicles at different points, concentrating Wednesday&squo;s efforts in the Peniel Road, Smith Dairy Road and Amy Lane area, where Taylor resides.

The phones were ringing off the hook all day Wednesday at the sheriff&squo;s office with administrators trying to keep track of where the officers were located in the search.

Calls were coming in mostly for information, from many residents wondering what was going on. Several residents came into the sheriff&squo;s office asking questions and wondering if Taylor is dangerous.

Many residents also called in reporting that they had seen or heard something suspicious or seen someone who appeared to match the description of Taylor. Some residents reported open doors or windows and asked the sheriff&squo;s office to check their house.

Someone had initially called in after the search began, saying they saw a man hiding in a ditch along Hwy. 74, behind the Stearns Building. But no one was found there, and the sheriff&squo;s office later questioned the accuracy of the call.

Someone later called in saying they had seen someone matching the description in the area of Peniel Road, near Tryon Estates and Taylor&squo;s official address.

One by one the sheriff&squo;s office responded to each of the calls, not knowing whether it could be the one that leads them to Taylor. The helicopter also moved quickly to follow up on the calls, but none of them seemed to get law enforcement officers any closer to finding Taylor.

Up to 100 officers from Polk and other counties were coming in and out of the office, checking in and relaying where they would be searching next.

Polk County GIS specialist David Weisgerber was busy throughout the day making road and topographical maps to hand out to officers who were unfamiliar with the area. Officers were in full gear, with bullet proof vests and large weapons strapped to their backs.

The N.C. Department of Corrections also assisted in the search, and bloodhounds were brought in to try to determine Taylor&squo;s path.

News media from North and South Carolina set up vans and cameras and were asking for information throughout the day.

At many times during the day, county officials were wondering what was going to happen next.

Then around 3 p.m. a call came in that a man was holding a family against their will. It took a few seconds to determine it was unrelated to the Taylor case and officers were dispatched and quickly took care of the domestic situation, which reportedly resulted in no injuries or arrests.

Sheriff Hill held a press conference at 6 p.m. Wednesday detailing the events of the Taylor escape, and officers continued their search efforts throughout the evening and into the night.

The birthday party sort of happened eventually for Hill, with cake and food displayed in the front of the office in the afternoon. It was probably the most chaotic birthday Hill has seen in his 40 years.