Woman Sentenced in Vehicular Homicide Case
Struck and Killed a Pedestrian While Driving Under the Influence

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: Kendall Holcomb
775-328-3223 (o)

A Reno woman who has a history of DUI offenses has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for Vehicular Homicide, after she struck and killed a pedestrian while under the influence of alcohol last August.

53-year-old Debra Thornton (dob 11/28/70) was driving on S. Virginia Street near Damonte Ranch Parkway when the victim, Jarod Taylor, a 31-year-old man, and his girlfriend were walking on the paved shoulder of the road. Thornton hit Taylor, causing him to be thrown 70 feet. He died on scene.  Taylor’s girlfriend fortunately was not injured.  Though Thornton drove away, the emblem from her car was left behind. While troopers with the Nevada Highway Patrol were investigating the hit and run, officers with Reno Police Department responded to a nearby apartment complex to the report of a reckless driver. A witness told police that they saw a car with front end damage and deployed airbags being driven by Thornton driving erratically, and so they followed her to the complex.

When officers spoke to the defendant, they noticed she was unsteady on her feet, had red and watery eyes, and there was a strong smell of alcohol. While speaking with police, Thornton admitted to being aware that she had hit someone in the road.  Toxicology reports of Thornton’s blood showed she had a blood alcohol content of 0.167, which is more than twice the legal limit. 

During sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Aziz Merchant outlined the tragic facts of the case, to include Thornton’s 3 prior Driving Under the Influence convictions.  He also presented victim impact testimony from Taylor’s mother, who testified that she was overcome with the grief of having to bury her son.  The victim’s mother made a particularly poignant statement during her victim impact testimony that Taylor was himself a father to a young child, a son, and that his son would now only know of his father through photos and family memories. 

Thornton had pled guilty to the charge of Vehicular Homicide and will be eligible for parole after a minimum of 10 years has been served. The Honorable Judge Lynne Jones presided and imposed the sentence.

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