By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Emotions ran high and tears flowed Friday at the sentencing of a 41-year-old Volcano woman who was under the influence of alcohol and several drugs when she struck and killed a 20-year-old bicyclist with her pickup truck last year.
Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura sentenced Alison Taylor to 10 years in prison for a hit-and-run collision that killed Brody Winslow, a Hawaii Community College psychology student from Wrightsville Beach, N.C. In a deal with prosecutors, Taylor pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent homicide, leaving the scene and DUI. She was originally also charged with manslaughter, reckless driving and driving while her license was suspended. She could have faced a 20-year prison term if convicted on the manslaughter charge.
At about 7:30 a.m. on April 11, 2012, Taylor was driving south on Kinoole Street between Ohea and Puainako streets when she struck Winslow, who was riding in a bike path in the same direction. Taylor then hit a utility pole, severing it, and fled south on Kinoole before being pulled over at the intersection of West Palai Street by Assistant Police Chief Marshall Kanehailua.
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Matsukawa asked the judge to sentence Taylor to consecutive 10-year terms for the negligent homicide and leaving the scene, noting that she had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18, twice the legal threshold for intoxication, plus numerous drugs in her system, including clonazepam, morphine and marijuana at the time of the crash. He said evidence showed that Taylor had 12 drinks at Karma HI sports bar and had slept several hours in a parking lot before being told she had to leave. Matsukawa said that Taylor had a 6-month-old son at home at the time of the crash and called her actions “egregious.”
“She kills Brody. She runs him over. She hits a telephone pole,” he said. “She runs right through the telephone pole, and she drives approximately 1.3 miles while pushing the air bag out of her face while Assistant Chief Kanehailua is trying to wave her down.”
Winslow’s father, cardiologist Dr. Tim Winslow, told the court that he and his wife, Heidi, “forgive Miss Taylor” but believe a prison term is called for.
“It’s unimaginable to me, really, that she left the scene of the accident, leaving my son by the side of the road to die,” he said. “When she hit that telephone pole, she knew darn well what she did. And she left the scene in a desperate attempt to escape the inevitable consequences that she knew would follow. And only by the grace of God were there not more victims.”
Heidi Winslow, an emergency room nurse, said that if Taylor had stopped and called 911 her son might have survived.
“The question I ask over and over to Miss Taylor is, ‘How could you do this to our children? Yours and mine,’” she said through tears. “You are a mother. … Miss Taylor, you have an obligation to protect your children, and if you did on April 11, 2012, my child wouldn’t be dead.”
Taylor’s court-appointed attorney, Christopher Bridges, asked the court to sentence his client to probation and an 18-month jail term. Turning to the Winslows, he told the victim’s father: “You’re a bigger man than I.”
“As a father of three children, I cannot imagine the pain that you’re going through,” he said. “I cannot fathom losing a child. And for you to come in here and say you forgive Alison Taylor, that’s huge. I don’t think I could do the same thing in your position. I know Alison wouldn’t be able to do the same thing in your position, because she can’t forgive herself.”
A tearful Taylor also turned toward the Winslows and maintained she still doesn’t remember the fatal collision.
“I thank you for saying you forgive me,” she said. “I know your son will never be there with you. And I want you to know that every day that I look at my son, I think of Brody. … I look at my family and I can’t imagine losing my children. And every time I look at my son and my daughter, I think of Brody. And to this day I wish I was the one who had died.”
Dr. Winslow said afterwards that he and his wife are happy with the sentence and said he hopes for heightened awareness of drunken driving and hopes no other parents have to go through what he and his wife have experienced.
“There’s nothing that’s going to bring our son back but I believe it’s important that there be consequences for choices and decisions,” he said.
Heidi Winslow added that she was “thrilled in the name of Brody.”
“We can’t bring Brody back, but I’m just so thankful the judge took a stand for the consequences of drunk driving and one less person will be on the road that has the potential to drive while intoxicated,” he said.
The Winslows have a pending wrongful death civil lawsuit against Taylor.
Rick Damerville, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case prior to his retirement last year, noted that Taylor’s 20-year-old daughter, Nicole Elizabeth Torngren, was in the courtroom. He said that Torngren, who is not yet of legal drinking age, had been arrested on a DUI charge on March 31, 2012, 11 days before Taylor’s fatal collision — and her blood-alcohol content was 0.19, a level slightly higher than her mother’s had been when the crash occurred.
Damerville handed the Tribune-Herald documents on Torngren’s case, and pointed out that Taylor had posted her daughter’s $500 bail.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.