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St. Louis man charged in killing of Illinois college student

A St. Louis man has been arrested and charged with murder in the slaying of a 19-year-old Illinois college student who went missing while trying to sell his sports car on Craigslist, authorities said.

Capt. Tim Fagan of the Florissant, Missouri, police department said at a news conference Wednesday night that 24-year-old Michael Gordon was taken into custody Tuesday and was being held at the St. Louis County jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

Gordon has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Taylor Clark, a sophomore engineering student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Fagan, the deputy commander of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis and lead investigator in the case, 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.

Police say Gordon is an employee of a truck driver training center in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Missouri, not far from where Clark's 2007 Nissan 350ZX and body were found Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether Gordon has an attorney.

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-E Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe said in a statement issued 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."

Associated Press reporter Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.
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