By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

PALESTINE – The Palestine Police Department (PPD) has confirmed the death of a missing Palestine woman has ruled as a homicide.

Ricki Deann Taylor, 46, was last seen on the evening of Wednesday, June 21 in Palestine. She was reported missing to the PPD on Thursday, June 22.

Taylor’s body was found on the evening of Friday, June 23 in a remote location in Houston County,  between Grapeland and Latexo.

“Ms. Taylor’s body was found in Houston County, on CR 2120, and was taken to Dallas for an autopsy. The medical examiner there ruled her death as a homicide. She was found with a gunshot wound to the head,” according to a news release issued late Monday afternoon by City of Palestine Communications and Best Practices Officer Nate Smith.

Detectives, along with the Texas Rangers, are continuing to pursue leads in Taylor’s death, the release said.

“They will release more information when they are able. Until then, the Palestine Police Department asks that the media and public bear with us as we continue to work through the leads and information surrounding the circumstances of Ms. Taylor’s death,” the news release said.

Taylor had worked for the past two years at 93.5 KBPC “Pine Country” radio station.

“She was a terrific employee and human being and we miss her. We can’t believe this. We are in a state of shock that something happened like this to someone as wonderful as her,” 93.5b KBPC “Pine Country” News Director Gary Richards told The Messenger on Monday.

At the radio station, Taylor did a little of everything, Richards said.

“She was our receptionist, our bookkeeper, she did billing, really a jack of all trades,” Richards said.

The radio station is currently broadcasting a Hope Station commercial in which her voice is featured.

“She wrote the commercial to help them raise money for a roof. She reached out to a lot of people,” Richards said.

Richards said the whole 93.5 KBPC “Pine Country” team sends their prayers and thoughts to the family.

“It’s really got to be tough on the children and the family to lose a mother that way. She was so community involved, she did everything to help others, and now she’s gone,” Richards said. “It’s too much to understand.”

Taylor was the mother of two grown daughters, a 12-year-old son and a granddaughter. She was a graduate of Palestine High School.

Over the last several years, Taylor served in various capacities with the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, as a past board member and longtime volunteer.

“She was always smiling, always laughing and willing to help,” Chamber Board President Jacque Johnston told The Messenger Monday. “She was always really involved in helping with our festivals.”

Close friend Cheryle Evans said Taylor’s heart was as big as her smile.

“Ricki was one of my best friends. She and her kids were like family to Austin and me. Ricki’s heart was as big as her smile. It never seemed like she was having a bad day because she always had a kind word, a hug and a smile for everyone,” Evans told The Messenger Monday. “I love her so much. I know the angels in heaven are having a blast with her great sense of humor and smile. My prayers are with her family and her many, many friends.”

A GoFundMe (www.gofundme.com) account has been set up for Taylor’s funeral expenses under “Ricki Deann Taylor Funeral Expenses.”

Anyone with any information regarding Taylor’s disappearance and subsequent death is urged to contact the Palestine Police Department at 903-729-2254, Det. David Kassaw at 903-731-8482 or Det. Mark Harcrow at 903-731-8422. Information also can be submitted anonymously by texting PALPD, then the word tip to number 847411.