Trial starts for man accused of shooting pizza shop employee 15 times

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - The trial for the man charged in the murder of a 19-year-old pizza shop employee on Feb. 21, 2016, officially got underway Tuesday.

Kiara Taylor, 26, was arrested and charged with capital murder after police said he shot Peter Mielke 15 times when he could not get the cash register open fast enough during an attempted robbery at Reginelli’s Pizza in Bellaire.

The manager on duty, who was in the back office when the shooting happened, testified she heard a gunshot but couldn’t see what was happening on the restaurant’s surveillance cameras.

Jack Burman, another employee, told jurors he ran to the manager’s office from the kitchen after seeing an armed man dressed in black with a mask walk into the restaurant.

A third employee testified he locked himself in the bathroom after hearing a gunshot and called his mother who then dialed 911.

Tristan Davis, a fourth employee who was outside of the restaurant in the loading dock area, also heard a gunshot and dialed 911.

They each recounted for the jury what they saw and heard the day Mielke was shot and killed.

Prosecutors also called three Bellaire police officers who responded to the deadly shooting, including an officer who tagged the crime scene with evidence markers.

According to prosecutors, the jury will hear 25 witnesses, including the manager on duty the night of the robbery and the suspect's sister, Tarrel Taylor.

Tarrel is one of the key witnesses in the case. Prosecutors said she claims Taylor confessed to her about killing Mielke after surveillance video appeared on the news.

According to court documents, the video shows Taylor demanding Mielke to open the register, then repeatedly shooting him before turning and leaving the establishment.

Taylor was arrested March 4, 2016, on the unrelated charge of possession of a firearm by a felon after Tarrel saw the video and identified him to the authorities as the potential shooter.

"I reported it to his probation officer, then I talked to the detective," Tarrel told KPRC2 in a previous interview.

A recording of that call will be played for the jury.

Tarrel is also expected to testify that she purchased the gun and ammunition for Taylor the day before the shooting, the prosecutor said.

Tarrel apologized to Mielke’s family for her role in the slaying of the 19-year-old.

“I wish I could take it back, but I can't take back what I did to get him the gun," she said.

The defense is asking the jury to keep an open mind when hearing the witnesses and watching the video, calling it “murky” and saying they wouldn’t be able to see a face.

Taylor has an extensive criminal record including four previous felonies. If he is convicted of capital murder charges, Taylor could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

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