Twenty years in prison and a $10,000 fine were handed down this week in the sentencing phase of a DWI murder trial involving prominent Buda realtor Jason Tarr.
The jury’s sentence came after Tarr last week was convicted of felony murder and intoxication assault stemming from a 2014 head-on collision that killed Nancy Sterling-Dalton, of Austin, according to a press release from Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau.
Tarr’s trial began May 1 with a jury of seven men and five women with two alternates.
Jurors heard testimony from witnesses at the golf course, witnesses to Tarr’s driving the night of the incident, police and medical personnel who responded to the scene, as well as lab analysts.
Jurors deliberated for six-and-a-half hours before finding Tarr guilty on both counts.
According to the release, while the law permits the jury to consider and convict on both counts, punishment can only be administered to one.
The jury during the sentencing phase heard evidence relating to the felony murder count. Jurors deliberated for just under 11 hours before handing down sentence, which was pronounced by Hays County Judge Jack Robison.
According to the release, Tarr left a golf course shortly before 8 p.m. Sept. 29, 2014, after participating in a golf tournament. Other participants described Tarr as having “ingested varying amounts of alcohol available to the golfers,” which included beer and vodka.
While no one at the golf course described Tarr as being “obviously impaired,” other witnesses described seeing him drive aggressively. Witnesses said they saw Tarr cut off other drivers, tailgate and drive in the oncoming lanes of Slaughter and Brodie lanes in Austin before turning onto FM 1626 in Hays County.
Before witnesses could call authorities, Tarr’s pickup truck crossed into the oncoming lane of FM 1626 and hit a Sebring convertible driven by Dalton, who was traveling in the opposite direction.
According to investigators at the scene, debris and road damage indicated the collision occurred in Dalton’s lane.
Dalton died at the scene from what the medical examiner called “multiple blunt force injuries.” Tarr suffered minor scrapes and bruises.
When questioned by officers at the scene, Tarr claimed the car in front of him had slammed on its brakes and he had been unable to stop in time. Tarr’s statement was “inconsistent” with his story to a paramedic that the other vehicle had crossed into his lane and struck him head on, according to the release.
Tarr was later taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin, where a Department of Public Safety trooper later questioned him. Tarr then told the trooper a car had pulled out in front of him, which was “a story which conflicted with his previous statements,” according to the release.
The trooper requested a blood sample from Tarr after noting his inconsistent statements and other signs of intoxication, which Tarr refused to provide.
Tarr was detained for the time it took for the trooper to obtain a search warrant for a blood sample. When the trooper returned with the warrant, which was four hours after the collision, Tarr unsuccessfully attempted to flee the hospital before his sample could be taken, according to the release.
After Tarr’s blood was drawn and tested, it was revealed he had an alcohol concentration of .102 g/100 milliliters (mL), which was in excess of the .08 legal limit.
Tarr was charged with intoxication manslaughter, but the District Attorney’s office added a charge of felony murder due to Tarr 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,” according to the release.
Prior to the sentencing phase, Mau and Jennifer Stalbaum, assistant district attorney, provided the jury additional details on Tarr’s three previous DWIs, where collisions were involved each time.
Testimony was given from Dalton’s surviving family, Tarr’s co-workers, friends and fiancée, as well as arguments from attorneys.
“There’s no happy endings for anyone in a case like this,” said Mau in the release. “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 added the jury’s verdict signified a “price to pay for making decisions that endanger and kill others.”
“[I]t shoudn’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 the price,” Mau said.