Police in Missouri announced late Wednesday that a St. Louis man had been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the death of a college student who vanished while trying to sell his sports car on Craigslist.
Capt. Tim Fagan of the Florissant Police Department said at a news conference that 24-year-old Michael Gordon was taken into custody Tuesday in connection with the death of 19-year-old Taylor Clark. Fagan said Gordon was being held at the St. Louis County jail in lieu of $1 million bond.
In addition to first-degree murder, authorities have charged Gordon with armed criminal action.
Fagan said police arrested Gordon after his name was found in emails Gordon traded with Clark about the car Clark was trying to sell. Investigators said the two did not know one another before they met.
“No joyrides, it is a fun car and will be great for anyone who is looking for a fun car to drive!” wrote Clark, an engineering student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the ad posted on April 23 for his red 2007 Nissan 350ZX. Clark was asking $11,000 for the car.
Police say Gordon and Clark made arrangements to meet Tuesday in the parking lot of the MTC Truck Driver Training School, where Gordon worked and would ostensibly take the car for a test drive.
Instead, authorities say, Gordon killed Clark with a single gunshot and moved his body to a wooded area nearby. KTVI reported that authorities believe that Gordon arranged the meeting to take place on his lunch break, then went back to work after dumping Clark’s body.
Clark’s body was found 400 yards from his car Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
Fagan told reporters that the murder weapon has not been found, and a motive for the shooting has not been determined. Investigators say they are also looking for Gordon’s missing car, which is described as a red 1990 BMW 325 with Missouri license plate number FL3Z9K.
Clark, who is from the southwestern Illinois town of St. Jacob, was reported missing by family members on Monday. Authorities say he was last seen by his girlfriend.
“Our hearts and minds are with Taylor Clark’s family and friends as they cope with this tragic loss,” SIU-Edwardsville Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe said in a statement Wednesday. “At a time of the year when the new spring season brings the promise of brighter days ahead, and commencement provides unending potential for so many of our students, it is truly sad that Taylor had his bright future taken away.”
The Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat reported that Clark worked at a convenience store in Troy, where a candlelight vigil was scheduled for Wednesday night. A similar vigil was held Tuesday night on campus.
Clark’s death comes during the same week as a Monday court hearing in St. Charles County in which a 23-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing a 45-year-old St. Louis man during an encounter and planned robbery in 2012 that was set up through a Craigslist ad. On the same day of the hearing, Fairview Heights, Illinois, police unveiled a “safe exchange zone” on its parking lot, complete with security cameras, to help citizens safely broker online transactions with strangers.
“You never know who it is you’re contacting,” Fagan said. “Precautions should be taken.”