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COVER: Tarr, right, and defense attorney Billy McNabb.

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ORIGINAL STORY 12:22 p.m. MONDAY, MAY 15:

by BRAD ROLLINS

A jury retired behind closed doors late this morning to decide the punishment for Buda area real estate broker Jason Tarr, a lifelong Hays County resident convicted last week of murder and intoxication manslaughter for a fatal 2014 car wreck.

During closing arguments this morning, defense attorneys asked jurors to sentence Tarr to the minimum of five years in prison while prosecutors said at least 50 years is an appropriate punishment for causing the head-on collision that killed 60-year-old Nancy Sterling Dalton near Buda.

Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau told jurors to send a public statement that “here’s what you should expect if you commit this crime in Hays County because this is what Hays County juries do.”

Mau and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Stalbaum repeatedly reminded the jury of Tarr’s three previous convictions for driving while intoxicated, but suggested jurors hand down a stiff penalty even if they do not believe Tarr will again endanger lives on the road. (During the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial, jurors were told of only two of the convictions.)

The “price needs to be higher than anyone would be willing to pay. The cost is too high and the price also needs to be too high,” Mau said.

Defense attorneys Billy McNabb and Scot Courtney asked jurors to recall testimony from a succession of friends and colleagues who said Tarr was a conscientious mentor and generous philanthropist while building a real estate empire that included a major Keller Williams franchise in Buda and Kyle. They said a lighter sentence will allow Tarr to continue raising his nine-year-old son upon Tarr’s release from prison.

“What does it mean to that fellow?” Courtney asked as he held up a photo of Tarr’s son to the jury box.

Moreover, McNabb suggested that Tarr may devote the remainder of his life to warning others of the dangers of drinking and driving.

“There’s not a case more worthy of the minimum [sentence] than this case. … Jason’s destroyed financially. He’s never going to be able to restore his reputation and have any meaningful occupation ever again. Maybe this is his calling,” McNabb said.

Under the Texas Penal Code, the maximum sentence for first-degree felony murder is life in prison. Tarr will be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence or 30 years, whichever is less.

The trial started May 1 with jury selection; the jury returned guilty verdicts on May 11.

The Mercury is at the courthouse awaiting the jury’s sentence. Follow us on Twitter (@themercurynews) for updates.

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4 thoughts on “Five years or 50? Jury deliberates Tarr’s punishment

  1. “Moreover, McNabb suggested that Tarr may devote the remainder of his life to warning others of the dangers of drinking and driving.”

    “There’s not a case more worthy of the minimum [sentence] than this case. … Jason’s destroyed financially. He’s never going to be able to restore his reputation and have any meaningful occupation ever again. Maybe this is his calling,” McNabb said.

    He “MAY” devote the remainder of his life warning others…? Gee, how good of him! Funny, how an irrevocable act of murder as found by a jury should now warrant a minimum sentence so he can pursue a new calling!

    It took him killing someone to realize the dangers of drinking and driving?
    His past is littered with warnings society has placed on him with incremental convictions for driving under the influence.

    Perhaps a few billboards with his face and sentence may serve as a poignant reminder to those who continue be as foolish as he was!

    I am not suggesting this man should be eternally punished with life behind bars or perhaps even 50 years! After putting everything on the line to prove his innocence, they are now asking for a chance to let him be a spokesman for the the dangers of the very thing he fought to be found innocent of?

    Did he make a terrible mistake or take another one of his calculated risks?
    Based on his past, I would say the latter!

  2. At a fundamental level, lawyer’s at sentencing are called upon to point out to the sentencing entity, whether that be judge or jury, good things about the client. Apparently there was much good to be said about Mr. Tarr. Neither he nor his lawyers should be faulted for that.

  3. He was not a good man! He was a selfish Narcissist asshole. He should have got life! He made his money by ripping off college students. His whole demeanor during the trial says it all. Not once did he apologize. Then he wants to argue that he was not drunk driving. Yet now he wants to devote his life to helping others understand the ramifications of drunk driving? Give me a break! Nancy is not here to call it out so I will !

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