By Andy Sevilla
A Hays County grand jury indicted a prominent Buda realtor on an intoxication manslaughter charge stemming from a fatal vehicle collision in September.
Jason Tarr, 37, was indicted Jan. 21 on a Sept. 29 second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter charge. Tarr is accused of driving drunk and ramming his truck head-on into Nancy Sterling-Dalton’s 2006 Chrysler Sebring convertible.
Dalton, 60, of Austin, was pronounced dead at the scene.
After reviewing evidence last month, a Hays County grand jury indicted Tarr on the intoxication manslaughter charge. An indictment is not a finding of guilt; it is a formal accusation that suggests enough evidence exists to warrant a trial.
DPS officials working the Sept. 29 collision reported the crash happening at about 8 p.m. on FM 1626 near Lakewood Drive, by the Cimarron Park Neighborhood in Buda.
DPS spokesperson Robbie Barrera said witnesses reported observing Tarr’s 2009 Ford F150 weaving in and out of his lane, crossing the center stripe and at times driving on the shoulder. Tarr was heading southbound, according to a DPS report, and witnesses reported Tarr striking Dalton’s vehicle head-on while she was traveling northbound on the major north-south artery.
Tarr sustained minor injuries during the wreck and was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin where he was treated and later released to authorities.
“I observed and photographed evidence at the scene, including gouge marks in the roadway, which clearly indicated [Tarr’s] pickup had traveled into the northbound (opposite) lane and struck [Dalton’s] convertible head on,” according to DPS Trooper William Hart’s Sept. 29 court affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Tarr.
According to Hart, DPS Trooper Kevin Lashlee met up with Tarr at the hospital where he described the suspect as having a “strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Tarr’s breath.” Tarr also was said to have a polite and indifferent attitude, bloodshot eyes, and mumbled and mush-mouth speech.
After performing the horizontal gaze nystagmus test on Tarr, Lashlee reported a lack of smooth pursuit in Tarr’s eyes, distinct and sustained nystagmus (involuntary eye movement) at maximum deviation, and the onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees, according to the court affidavit.
That’s when Lashlee placed Tarr under arrest for driving while intoxicated, and asked for a voluntary blood specimen. Tarr refused the voluntary blood draw, according to the affidavit, and Lashlee obtained a search warrant for a specimen of Tarr’s blood.
The affidavit states Tarr tried to flee the hospital when he learned a search warrant was being sought for his blood, and he had to be restrained.
“It is my belief that Tarr, Jason Floyd operated a motor vehicle in a public place, FM 1626 near Lakewood Drive, while intoxicated, and by reason of that intoxication, caused the death of another by accident or mistake,” Hart said in his court affidavit.
Hays County Criminal Records show this is Tarr’s third arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Tarr was arrested in Hays County on a second DWI offense in 2002, for which he pleaded no contest and received two years probation and 80 hours of community service.
In 2005, the state sought to revoke Tarr’s probation, but ultimately that request was denied.
No records were available in Hays County for Tarr’s first DWI arrest, indicating it likely occurred outside of Hays.
Tarr is due back in court March 5 to make a plea on his intoxication manslaughter charge, records show.
Tarr told the Hays Free Press Friday afternoon he could not talk about the case.
“I’m not going to comment at this time,” he said.
A call to his attorney, Billy McNabb, was not returned.