One year later, man still fights for justice for murdered ex-boyfriend

Taylor Shirley and Stephen Sylvester

Taylor Shirley and Stephen Sylvester via Twitter

After Stephen Sylvester was murdered by his live-in lover, a surprising hero has stepped forward to demand justice – Sylvester’s ex-boyfriend, Taylor Shirley.

Shirley and Sylvester met at a party in College Station, Texas in 2014 and lived together for about six months in Houston. Shirley says the two were deeply in love, but “had some growing up to do” and planned to reunite after taking some time for themselves.

But when Sylvester was beaten to death by his new boyfriend, Bryan Michael Canchola, Shirley joined forces with the victim’s family to insist that justice be served. Canchola, after all, has been out on bail for the past year, living with his family and enjoying his freedom.

Authorities in Austin, Texas, where the killing occurred, say a backlog of forensic testing has delayed bringing the case to trial. Canchola has been charged with first-degree felony murder.

“I’m basically wanting it to be back in the public eye. It’s kind of gotten swept under the rug,” Shirley told Houston’s OutSmart magazine. “I’ve stayed in it this long and will continue to because I love Stephen. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had been killed, Stephen would do the same for me.”

“I feel like if it got more attention, it would put the pressure on the DNA labs in Travis County to push it forward. All of us just want Bryan to be put away for as long as possible.”

Canchola allegedly beat Sylvester to death in the apartment they shared with a roommate after accusing Sylvester of cheating on their relationship. He also strangled Sylvester’s dog, Harlow. The Yorkshire Terrier lived through the attack and now has a home with Sylvester’s mother. Canchola is also charged with animal cruelty.

Sylvester escaped Canchola’s attack once, but returned to the apartment in an attempt to rescue his pet. Thirty minutes later, Canchola called the police to say he had been fighting with his boyfriend and had knocked Sylvester unconscious. Sylvester died at the hospital from head trauma.

Assistant Travis County district attorney Andrea Austin, the prosecutor in charge of Canchola’s case, confirmed to OutSmart that she was waiting on DNA evidence before proceeding to trial.

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