The last thing Jessica Hill remembered when the man she once loved tried to kill her that afternoon was the smell of gasoline and the inability to move, she said Friday during Thomas “Jack” Taylor Jr.’s sentencing hearing.
Taylor, 37, pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to aggravated assault, serious injury by vehicle and criminal damage to property for causing a June 7 vehicle crash.
“If it’s not Jessica Hill the next time, it will be someone else,” Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine said to the judge in seeking the maximum prison sentence possible, 45 years.
Defense attorney Victor Hawk asked Judge Sheryl B. Jolly to give Taylor a chance to regain a place in the community through rehabilitation. Though there was no excuse for what Taylor did, people locked in love-hate relationships lose control of reason and judgment, especially when alcohol is involved, Hawk said.
The law recognizes the difference between a crime of intent and crime of passion, such as murder and voluntary manslaughter, Jolly said, adding that Taylor was lucky not to be facing two counts of murder.
Jolly, who said she was giving Taylor credit for accepting responsibility, sentenced him to eight years in prison, followed by 12 years’ probation, under the First Offender Act.
On June 7, Jason Larussa was doing a friend a favor when he agreed to give Hill a ride, Paine said. He and Hill were about to get into his truck when Taylor appeared, armed with a knife. Larussa and Hill jumped into his truck and tried to escape, but Taylor chased after them, ramming Larussa’s truck in a pursuit that reached 100 mph on Travis Road, Paine said.
Taylor pulled alongside the truck and forced them off the road. Larussa’s truck flipped several times and took out the bottom half of a light pole, Paine said. Larussa and Hill were ejected from the truck, which landed on top of Hill.
At the hospital, her family was told she wasn’t expected to live but if she did, she would probably never walk again. She is recovering but will be in pain and have to take medication for the rest of her life, she said.
Larussa’s back was broken in several places, as was a hip and several ribs. It was three months before he could walk again, he said, and he couldn’t work for six months.
The attack wasn’t Taylor’s first incident of domestic violence, Paine said. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct – reduced from terroristic threats, domestic violence and cruelty to children in the third degree – in an assault on Hill. Before her, there had been another victim but the case was put into an inactive prosecution status, Paine said.