Bell finds Taylor guilty of vehicular homicide

April 15, 2011 • Local News

John Taylor, 31, was convicted on two counts of vehicular homicide, one while driving while under the influence and one for reckless driving, that resulted in the 2009 death of Martha Cereceres.

The incident took place at Chisum and Main streets on the night of Sept. 13, 2009, where a motorcycle accident involving six people took the lives of three. Diana Bishop Smith died at the scene. Her husband Barry Smith and Martha Cereceres died days later.

Judge Steven L. Bell also found Taylor guilty on the misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, leaving the scene of accident and failure to give notice.

Nina Cale, one of the survivors, discussed the incidents leading up to the crash when she and Cereceres went to Farley’s for drinks and joined Taylor, David Hurley, Barry Smith and Diana Bishop Smith at their table around 5 p.m. Cale admitted she had little recall of the accident since she suffered severe head injuries.

The only thing she saw was Smith’s tire hit the median. Jimmie Montoya said the Taylor party had drinks cut off by the waitress at [auth] Farley’s. He offered to carry the three bikes on his trailer. He was refused. District Attorney Janetta Hicks brought out receipts from Farley’s documenting a total of 41 drinks served to Taylor’s group of four.

Two witnesses told how the motorcycles accelerated from the light at the corner of Main and McGaf fey streets, which was followed by security video obtained from Valeros to corroborate their testimony. Marcos Guerra, eyewitness to the accident, said he saw two motorcycles and two tail lights airborne.

Evidence was found two days later at the South Main Church of Christ, including Taylor’s colors, the motorcycle club jacket, gloves and cell phone. Roswell Police Officer Ted Sandoval observed the group driving on Main Street and estimated their speed at 70 miles per hour. Sandoval described finding people sprawled in the northbound lane.

Fellow officer Micheal Fry found Martha Cereceres lying next to a tree while others searched for the sixth victim. Fry was called to the area around midnight for a man needing medical assistance.

He found Taylor, who smelled of intoxicants and had injuries consistent with a motorcycle accident. Taylor told Fry he didn’t know how he got to Valeros. He admitted to having three beers.

New Mexico State Police reconstructionist Scott Merrill traced the course of the three vehicles from the time of impact. Merrill stated Taylor’s was first to strike the median.

Smith tried to brake and lost control. Hurley attempted to turn left to avoid collision. Merrill estimated that Taylor’s speed at the time of impact was between 51 and 61 miles per hour. Dr. Ron Jeng Hwang, bureau chief at New Mexico Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory, provided the blood test results.

Taylor’s blood alcohol content was 0.09 five hours after the accident. The legal limit is 0.08. Hwang estimated that Taylor’s blood alcohol content was between 0.12 and 0.15 at the time of the accident.

Jones Witt questioned him on the potential for contamination, since the blood was taken through an IV port. Hwang replied that the test was sensitive enough to differentiate between isopropyl alcohol, used in a wipe, and ethanol found in alcoholic beverages.

However, he agreed that removing the blood from an IV port was irregular. After his testimony, Jones Witt asked that the blood test results be removed from evidence. Judge Bell denied his request. Taylor testified in his own defense.

According to Taylor, Smith’s tire hit his, causing him to lose control. After the accident, Taylorsaid he got up and then passed out. In final arguments Jones Witt discussed the irregularities of the blood draw and repeated his motion to withdraw the results and any charges relating to DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to give notice.

The motion was denied. In her rebuttal, Hicks said, “Taylor was the first to hit median …. He drove drunk. He hid his leather vest so he would not be recognized and he left Martha Cereceres to die.”

After a five-minute recess, Judge Bell delivered his verdict. Guilty on all counts. Taylor now faces a minimum sentence of 6 years, potentially 12. The sentence for one third-degree felony that results in a death is a six year prison term. Sentencing has been set for June 1.

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