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Trial postponed in death of Pasco triplet; driver has blackouts, defense says

NEW PORT RICHEY — Betty-Jo Tagerson came to court Thursday morning using a walker, asking to delay her trial for losing control of her car and killing a little girl last year.

Tagerson was supposed to begin her trial Monday in the death of 5-year-old triplet Delaney Rossman, who was hit Nov. 5, 2010, while playing in a yard with her sisters and other neighborhood children.

The trial was postponed until Dec. 5 so Tagerson's lawyers can add more doctors to the witness list. The defense says Tagerson suffers from chronic blackouts.

"We just want it done. We are ready to see consequences," said Autumn Johns, 23, an aunt of Delaney, Gabrielle and Isabella Rossman. The surviving girls are now in the first grade.

Danielle Malm, the girls' mother, said of Tagerson's claims of suffering blackouts: "I don't know what to make of that." Malm was visibly shaken and upset after the hearing. She did not want the trial postponed.

"Now it's just wait and see," said Malm, 31. "I'm not sure what's going to happen next."

At 7:40 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2010, in the front yard of her house at 12910 King Manor Ave., Tagerson had a "heated argument" with her boyfriend and "angrily got into her Jeep and rapidly drove out of her yard" and onto the street, according to her arrest report.

The Florida Highway Patrol estimates that within the span of a few homes, the Jeep accelerated to at least 44 mph before Tagerson lost control of the vehicle. It was only 50 paces from her house to the scene of the crash.

As Tagerson, 40, lost control of the Jeep, it swerved left, jumped a curb, flattened a mailbox and careened into a neighbor's yard. She hit a parked truck and then drove into a group of children, which included the triplets. Their older sister, Victoria Morgan, who was 10 at the time, tried to push her sisters out of the way, but there was no time. Delaney and Gabrielle were hit.

Tagerson was thrown from the Jeep, which kept rolling back onto the street and crashed into the triplets' parents' van, which was parked in their driveway.

Delaney was declared dead the next morning at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.

Gabrielle had two broken clavicles, a broken pelvis, several broken ribs, a broken right leg, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. She was in the hospital for two weeks, much of it spent in a medically induced coma.

The other girls — Isabella, Victoria and a then-9-year-old neighbor, Marissa Manuli — were scraped and bruised, but okay. Tagerson had minor injuries.

Tagerson was arrested March 3 and spent less than a day in the Pasco jail before being released on $15,250 bail. She is charged with vehicular homicide, manslaughter by culpable negligence, and reckless driving causing serious bodily injury. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Trial postponed in death of Pasco triplet; driver has blackouts, defense says 10/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011 8:42pm]
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