Austin Local News
Kyle realtor sentenced to 20 years for DWI felony murder
Photo: Hays County SO
Jason Floyd Tarr, 39, of Kyle was convicted last week of felony murder and intoxication assault arising from a 2014 intoxicated driving fatality in which Nancy Sterling-Dalton was killed in a head-on collision with Tarr’s truck. The jury sentenced Tarr to 20 years in prison on the murder count today.
On September 29, 2014, shortly before 8 PM, Tarr was leaving a golf course having participated in a golf tournament. Other participants described Tarr as having ingested varying amounts of alcohol available to the golfers, including beer and vodka. Although no one at the golf course described Tarr as being obviously impaired, other witnesses described seeing Tarr driving aggressively, cutting off other drivers, tailgating, and driving into the oncoming lanes of Slaughter and Brodie Lanes prior to turning onto State Highway 1626 in Hays County. Before the witnesses could call 911 to report the dangerous driving, they saw Tarr’s pickup truck cross over into the oncoming lane of 1626 in a construction zone and strike the Sebring convertible driven by Sterling-Dalton, 60, traveling in the opposite direction. According to investigators at the scene, including DPS Trooper William Hart, debris and road damage clearly corroborated the witness’s observation that the collision had occurred entirely within Sterling-Dalton’s lane. The back end of Tarr’s truck flipped up into the air and the truck came to rest on its side, but Tarr escaped with only minor scrapes and bruises. Sterling-Dalton was pinned inside her car, bleeding from the head and compound fractures of her legs, and died at the scene from what the medical examiner called “multiple blunt force injuries.”
When questioned by responding officers at the scene, Tarr claimed that the car in front of him had slammed on its braked and he had been unable to stop in time. This statement was inconsistent with his story to a paramedic that the other car had crossed into his lane and struck him head on.
Tarr was taken to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin by EMS. Concerns about possible head or internal injuries were ruled out by the medical staff, and Tarr was later questioned by a DPS Trooper Kevin Lashlee. Tarr told Lashlee that a car had pulled out in front of him, a story which conflicted with his previous statements and which was impossible due the presence of construction barriers and the absence of intersecting roads at the site of the crash. Noting Tarr’s false statement and other signs of intoxication, Lashlee requested a blood sample, which Tarr refused to provide. Lashlee detained Tarr for the time it took to obtain a search warrant for a sample of Tarr’s blood. When he returned with the warrant just before midnight—four hours after the wreck—Tarr unsuccessfully attempted to flee the hospital before his sample could be taken. His blood was drawn and later tested at the DPS Crime Lab in Austin,
where it revealed an alcohol concentration of .102 g/100ml, in excess of .08, the legal standard for intoxication.
Tarr was charged at the time with Intoxication Manslaughter, but the District Attorney’s Office later added a charge of felony murder due to Tarr’s having been convicted of DWI on three previous occasions. Felony Murder is defined as committing an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes a death while committing a felony (felony DWI in this case).
Tarr’s trial began on Monday, May 1. The jury, comprising 7 men and 5 women (and two alternates), heard testimony from witnesses from the golf course, witnesses to Tarr’s driving, police and medical personnel who responded to the crash scene and the hospital, and lab analysts. In addition, the defense in the case presented their own expert witness in an attempt to discredit the lab analysis. DPS Toxicology Lab Supervisor Anna Mudd was recalled several times by both the prosecution and the defense to go into great detail on the analytical protocols and procedures followed by the lab.
After a trial lasting through Wednesday, May 10, the jurors deliberated for six and a half hours before finding Tarr guilty on both counts. While the law permits the jury to consider and convict on both counts, punishment may be assessed in only one, so the jury heard evidence regarding the sentence to assess on the felony murder count. After hearing more details about Tarr’s previous three DWI convictions (including the fact that collisions had been involved each time), testimony from both Sterlin-Dalton’s surviving family and Tarr’s co-workers, friends and fiancée, and arguments from the attorneys, the jury began deliberations on Monday at around 11:30 AM. After deliberating for a total of 10 hours, 46 minutes, the jury today assessed sentence at 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The Honorable Judge Jack Robison, who presided over the trial, pronounced the verdict.
One unusual circumstance in this case: the defense had requested a jury sequester. As a result, the jurors were put in a hotel overnight during deliberations, and were not allowed to return to their homes, as is usually the case. The prosecution and the defense more often waive jury sequestration. The jurors were not informed as to which side had requested sequestration.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Stalbaum and the elected Hays County Criminal District Attorney Wes Mau prosecuted the case, and recognized the work of the DPS Troopers and other first responders, as well as the DPS Lab analysts involved. “There’s no happy endings for anyone in a case like this,” said Mau. “Mr. Tarr’s decision to drink and drive that day has resulted in nothing but tragedy for both Nancy Sterling-Dalton’s family and Mr. Tarr’s own family.”
Mau went on to say, “If the jury’s verdict means anything, it is that there is a price to pay for making decisions that endanger and kill others, and it shouldn’t matter who you are, how much you spend, or whether you’re otherwise a nice person, anyone who puts that last drink above the safety and lives of his community should have to pay that price."