Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hudson woman found guilty of killing triplet

NEW PORT RICHEY — The girls know her name but they never say it: Betty-Jo Tagerson, the woman who killed their sister. But when Tagerson's guilty verdict was read in court Wednesday afternoon, the 7-year-old girls smiled.

Isabella, Gabrielle and Delaney Rossman were triplets. Delaney was killed when Tagerson lost control of her Jeep on Nov. 5, 2010, and careened into a neighbor's yard full of children playing tag. A doctor testified earlier this week that Delaney had tire marks on her face and her skull was crushed.

Tagerson "is done. She is going away," said the girls' mother, Danielle Malm, after Tagerson's guilty verdict. "She is not going to get away with what she did."

Tagerson faces up to 25 years in prison when she is sentenced. Her sentencing has not been scheduled. The six-member jury deliberated for less than four hours and found the 40-year-old Hudson woman guilty of all the charges she faced: vehicular homicide, culpable negligence manslaughter and two counts of reckless driving with serious injury. The first two charges cover the same crime, so one of them will be dropped at sentencing.

Tagerson kissed her family as she walked into the courtroom to hear her verdict. She wept as she heard the jury's decision and as she was led away. When Tagerson was first arrested on the charges, she spent less than a day in jail before being released on bail.

Tagerson argued with her boyfriend the night of the crash, stormed into her Jeep and floored it. She quickly lost control, jumped a curb, smashed a mailbox and began rolling toward the yard full of girls. She hit a parked truck and the children and then fell out of her open driver's side door, which had a broken latch. She testified she did not bother tying her door shut — as she usually did with a cord — and she didn't wear her seat belt.

An expert testified she would not have lost control of the car if she had been buckled in, because she wouldn't have been fighting to stay in the car.

Tagerson's defense was that she hyperventilated and passed out soon after driving out of her yard. She said she doesn't remember the crash.

"She may have lost consciousness when she was ejected and hit the pavement," Assistant State Attorney Chris Sprowls said during his closing argument. But Tagerson "was awake as she is right in this courtroom right now," Sprowls said, "struggling to stay inside her car, one hand on the wheel and her foot on the gas."

Medical experts for the state testified Tagerson never complained of blackouts until July 2011, eight months after the crash. Tagerson says she did.

During the three-day trial, there was no mention of whether Tagerson had drugs in her system, although the Florida Highway Patrol report on the crash said Tagerson had prescribed levels of oxycodone in her system that night.

Defense attorney Dennis Watson told the jury what happened was tragic. But "it is possible to have a death that is not a crime," he said.

He said the state did not prove the crash was not accidental.

"No one is able to say that Ms. Tagerson set out looking for a yard full of kids to drive through," Watson said.

Gabrielle and Isabella testified Tuesday and were in court again Wednesday, sitting snugly between relatives on the court benches, their little feet dangling, black ballet slippers falling off. Malm said they were nervous about testifying but they wanted to do it for Delaney. They still talk of their sister a lot. Since her death, they have learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. They have learned how to read and write and entered first grade. They turned 7 and got their ears pierced. After the verdict, they wanted to go to their new home in Shady Hills and have cake, which is what the family intended to do.

"This is what we were waiting for," Malm said of the verdict. She is glad to have this chapter of their lives behind them, but Malm does not hope for her pain to be eased. She said the loss of her daughter is constant.

"We wanted (Tagerson) to go to jail and she is," Malm said. "This is something we don't have to worry about anymore."

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Hudson woman found guilty of killing triplet 01/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Seminole man accused of fracturing 8-month-old baby's leg

    Crime

    Deputies arrested a Seminole man Thursday after he fractured an 8-month-old baby's bones, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Gary G. Gibeault of Seminole was arrested on a charge of aggravated child abuse.
  2. St. Petersburg's ballooning sewage debt could threaten credit rating (but there's a Hail Mary plan to avoid that)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city needs a lot of money — $435 million over the next five years — most of it to fix its leaky sewer pipes and aging sewer plants.

    In September 2016, signs at St. Petersburg's North Shore Park warned people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city's overwhelmed sewer system. The City Council on Thursday learned that the very expensive fix for its sewage woes could hamper the city's credit rating. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Pinellas County receives $30 million for beach renourishment

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — While Pinellas beaches continually rank among the best in America, they need help to stay that way.

    The Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $30 million to help with beach renourishment at several Pinellas locations, including including Sand Key, Treasure Island and Upham Beach. This photo from 2014 shows how waves from high tides caused beach erosion at Sunset Beach near Mansions by the Sea condominium complex SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  4. Straz Center parking squeeze infuriates patrons, motivates search for solutions

    Transportation

    TAMPA — When the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened 30 years ago, it welcomed just 30,000 patrons its first year.

    Fireworks shoot into the sky over the David A. Straz Jr. Center For The Performing Arts. [SCOTT MCINTYRE, Times]
  5. Video shows naked man who stole swan sculpture in Lakeland, deputies say

    Crime

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office is searching for a large swan sculpture that was stolen from a Lakeland cold storage facility last weekend, possibly by a naked man.

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office says this naked man stole a large black and white swan sculpture, upper right, from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend. Surveillance video showed the man walking into Lakeland Cold Storage. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]