Driver admits guilt in fatal crash

Iran Taylor [email protected]

HANCOCK COUNTY — Reno Cook’s parents, seated two chairs apart in court on Monday, July 27, reached across the socially distanced gap to clasp each other’s hand as they awaited justice in the death of their son.

The distraught couple were attending a change-of-plea hearing for Iran Leroy Taylor, 22, Indianapolis, who pleaded guilty to charges related to a two-car crash in February in which Reno Cook, 22, of New Castle, died. Taylor was accused of being under the influence of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — on the day he drove his car into the path of another vehicle at a Hancock County intersection. Cook and three other men were passengers in Taylor’s car.

The plea agreement between Taylor and prosecutors calls for Taylor to admit guilt to a Level 4 count of causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a scheduled I or II controlled substance; as well as admitting guilt to two Level 5 felony counts of causing serious bodily injury when operating a motor vehicle with a scheduled I or II controlled substance. The agreement includes a sentence cap of five years.

Three other felony charges will be dropped if the agreement is accepted by Judge Marie Castetter of Hancock County Superior Court 1. The two Level 5 felonies were added Friday, July 24, after Kevin Kelly, the deputy prosecutor handling the case for the county, updated the injury status of other passengers in Taylor’s car.

Castetter took the plea agreement under advisement and set a sentencing hearing for Sept. 25. She also ordered a pre-sentence investigation on Taylor, who has been in jail since the crash.

Taylor’s attorney, Marietto Massillamany of Fishers, said any terms of Taylor’s sentence will be capped at five years maximum and that sentences for the three counts would run at the same time if the agreement is approved by the court. Kelly noted he will seek the full five years to be served in prison and more time on probation.

While Cook’s relatives sat silently, often wiping away tears and occasionally shaking with emotion, Taylor was calm and answered “Yes your honor,” when called upon. Taylor’s attorney said his client tried to avoid the crash but that his brakes failed and he had to swerve into traffic.

While blood work showed Taylor was under the influence of THC, the defendant’s attorney also said that was due to Taylor smoking marijuana the day before and not the day of the crash, Massillamany said during the hearing.

Taylor was driving a 2003 Buick LeSabre that collided with another vehicle Tuesday, Feb. 4, at State Road 234 and County Road 600E.

The driver of the second vehicle was a teenage girl who suffered only minor injuries after her airbags deployed.

According to a report by the Hancock County Fatal Accident Crash Team, the LeSabre was traveling north on County Road 600E as it came up behind a number of cars stopped at the stop sign at the intersection with State Road 234. According to multiple witnesses, the Buick then pulled out and passed the stopped vehicles and entered the intersection, the report said.

The other driver was westbound on State Road 234 in her Kia as the Buick suddenly appeared. Her car and the Buick collided.

Three additional passengers in the Buick driven by Taylor, Christopher Hossman, 36, Anderson; Joshua Pope, 46, Mount Summit; and Bobby Evans, 57, Terre Haute, were all transported to hospitals and were treated for injuries.

Taylor submitted to a chemical test, which showed THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was in his system. He was immediately arrested and taken to jail. At the time of the crash, Taylor was out on bond after being arrested in Marion County on five drug charges from an incident in January. Castetter warned him that now that he has pleaded guilty in the Hancock County case, it was likely his bond in Marion County would be revoked.

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