Money said to have a role in slaying

Albany suspect in homicide of elderly man has drug record

Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2006

ALBANY - A dispute over money pushed a small-time hustler to fatally stab a 69-year-old man in a downtown apartment building that overlooks the state Capitol, according to sources familiar with the investigation. It was not entirely clear Tuesday what sparked the October fight between 24-year-old Christopher Oathout and his alleged victim, Robert Taylor. But Oathout faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder charges city police lodged against him Monday.

Authorities with knowledge of the inves tigation said Oathout, riled by the argument, allegedly stabbed the man and took his wallet, and that there was at least one other person - a woman - in the apartment at the time of the slaying. From the outset, police suspected that Taylor, who would have turned 70 last month, knew his killer because there were no signs of forced entry into his seventh-floor apartment in the run-down but historic DeWitt Clinton Apartments at the Eagle and State streets.

Detective James Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, declined to elaborate about the details of the crime, citing the ongoing case.

Authorities have described Oathout and Taylor as "loosely acquainted."

Oathout, who has been in and out of the Albany County jail for drug offenses four times since August, also was charged with robbery Monday afternoon. Police hope his arrest police will close the city's fifth homicide this year.

Taylor's body was discovered Oct. 9, a Monday, inside his unlocked apartment by a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, and police believe he was murdered sometime over the preceding weekend, according to court records.

Court records said Taylor was stabbed repeatedly in the chest and also punched and choked. The DeWitt Clinton building, once a hotel to the rich and famous, is now predominantly low-income housing and slated for renewal. The building has been sold and the residents have until April to move out.

A man who answered the phone at the Watervliet address Oathout gave police said he was not related to the young man, and that Oathout only used it a place to get his mail.

"I threw him out two months ago," said the man, who declined to give his name.

Authorities said Oathout more recently lived in Albany. He was taken into custody Monday morning at 26 Dana Ave., between Lark and Knox streets, in Park South.

A resident said Oathout had been living there on and off - when he wasn't in jail - for about three months. The resident, who declined to give his name for fear of being labeled an informant, described Oathout as well-mannered. Oathout was actually jailed within days of the killing, on Oct. 13, said Sheriff James Campbell. The charge was unrelated to the murder. He was released from the Albany County jail on Oct. 26, then jailed again between Nov. 4 and Dec. 1.

At the DeWitt Clinton, Bernard Young said there isn't a day that went by that he didn't think about his slain neighbor and the search for his killer.

"We lost a loved one," Young, 49, said. Friends recalled Taylor as a man that did not have much other than his love for the Boston Red Sox. But they said he was willing to share the few things he did have, sometimes things as simple as a pint of ice cream or a piece of fruit.

"Right about now, Bob, he'd be my Santa Claus," Young said. "He'll be missed around here."

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@