A Tappen man will serve three-and-a-half more years in jail after pleading guilty to a series of criminal charges, the most serious of which was driving with a blood alcohol level of over .08 causing the death of his 18-month-old daughter.
Conan Lee Taylor, 29, was sentenced Tuesday in Salmon Arm Provincial Court after already serving four-and-a-half months in custody. He was also given a 10-year driving prohibition and was ordered to provide a DNA sample.
Taylor’s eyes were red-rimmed and he cried quietly during some of the proceedings, often hunching over and putting his head in his hands.
When asked by Judge Robin Smith if he had anything to say, Taylor didn’t take the opportunity.
“No, it’s OK,” he said.
Taylor pled guilty to offences from three separate instances. The first took place on Oct. 23, 2009, when Taylor was driving westbound on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Tappen Esso. Taylor claimed to have turned around to give his daughter, Sophia Mary Taylor, a bottle just before his car crossed the centreline. His vehicle slammed into an eastbound Mitsubishi Eclipse, which was being driven by Jodi Fontaine, a 44-year-old Sorrento woman. Sophia died at the scene. The court heard that at the time of the collision, which took place at 7 a.m., Taylor’s estimated blood alcohol level was between 199 and 213 mg. These levels are approximately two-and-a-half times above the legal limit. The results were based on later blood samples taken at the hospital, where Taylor was treated for his injuries.
An empty 1.5 litre bottle of red wine was found in the damaged Yaris.
Taylor also pled guilty to driving with a blood alcohol level over .08 causing bodily harm for the serious injuries inflicted on Fontaine, who was driving the Mitsubishi.
The court heard how Taylor had been driving his daughter around through the night because she was teething, and had stopped a few times at residences of friends between 2:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. where he had been observed drinking red wine and smoking marijuana. When tested for marijuana use, Taylor’s levels of a marijuana metabolite were consistent with someone who frequently used the drug.
Crown Counsel Bill Hilderman also noted that Sophia’s car seat was not properly mounted in Taylor’s Toyota Yaris, as the rear tether strap was not attached to the seat. This allowed the seat to move laterally during the collision.
“It is difficult to say if this could have been the difference but it certainly was a contributing factor to the infant’s death,” said Hilderman, who noted the cause of Sophia’s death was a broken neck.
At these words, the muscularly built man with close-cropped hair wiped away tears with the sleeve of his prison-issue shirt and stared up at the ceiling of the courtroom.
Following his charges for the collision, Taylor was charged again with assaults on his domestic partner Amanda Moorman, who went to police to complain about Taylor grabbing, shaking and shoving her at various times between Dec. 1, 2010 and Feb. 13, 2011. She said he threatened to kill her if she left him and would hold his fist up to her as though he meant to strike her.
Taylor’s lawyer Doug Ross told the court the man denied these allegations, but wanted to plead guilty to all his charges as a “package deal.”
Judge Smith took issue with this, telling Taylor he could not accept a guilty plea from a man who maintained that the allegations were false and that if he did not admit to the offences, he would have to schedule a trial on the assault charges.
When asked by the judge, Taylor told him, “yes, it did happen.”
In the third instance, Taylor pled guilty to failing to stop for police after fleeing from them on June 2, 2011. The charges came after an RCMP officer spotted Taylor, who was driving a car with an expired plate that belonged to a different car. A high-speed pursuit took place, which was called off by police for safety reasons. Taylor was arrested five days later at the Salmon Arm Courthouse where he was scheduled to appear on one of his other outstanding charges
In his sentencing, Smith noted Taylor’s prior criminal record which included impaired driving, assault, breach of court conditions and numerous motor vehicle infractions. He noted Taylor’s guilty plea as a mitigating factor, but hedged when it came to whether Taylor was remorseful.
“I don’t quite buy it,” said Smith. “I’m sure you have remorse that your drinking and driving ended up killing your daughter, but the way to show true remorse is to stop driving when ordered to — not to get into a police chase putting other lives at risk. That is not how you show remorse. That is lip service.”
While Smith said he could have sentenced Taylor to consecutive terms of imprisonment on the five different offences, he preferred to take a broader view and sentenced him to 30 days in jail on the assault charge, six months on the failing to stop for police and one day for breaching his no-contact order with Amanda Moorman. These will be served at the same time as his three-and-a-half year sentence and will mean no additional time in jail.