10 testify in day one of fatal OWI sentencing in Floyd County

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Aprile Rickert, The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.
·4 min read
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Apr. 8—NEW ALBANY — Officers first at the scene of a 2020 OWI crash in Floyd County that took the lives of two adults, a child and an unborn baby say they were trying to stop the driver before someone got hurt.

In total, 10 state's witnesses testified Thursday in the first day of a two-day sentencing hearing for Taylor Barefoot, 32, who pleaded guilty last month to three level 4 felonies for OWI causing death and a level 5 felony for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Taylor Cole, 21; Leah Onstott-Dunn, 22, a 3-year-old child and Cole's unborn baby.

Testimony shows that prior to the crash on March 7, 2020, Barefoot had been at a Mardi Gras Party in downtown Jeffersonville, which was held by Sazerac's Northwest Ordinance Distilling in New Albany, where she worked as an independent contractor in recruitment.

Between the time she left the party at 8:43 p.m. and when first responders arrived at the crash near the 5.0 mile marker on Interstate 265 just into Floyd County around 30 minutes later, at least three people had called 911 to report a wrong-way driver. Testimony shows Barefoot drove the wrong way for roughly three miles on two highways — Interstates 65 and 265 — and that she first started going the wrong way near Lewis and Clark Parkway in Clarksville.

In a follow-up interview with police played in court, one witness said she had been driving on I-265 east and took the exit to 65 south, which is a one-lane ramp, when she saw headlights coming toward her. The witness said she swerved to miss being hit and called 911, shaken.

"I said 'this person is going to end up killing someone,'" she said in the recording.

Multiple officers from Indiana State Police and the Clark County Sheriff's Office heard the call and rushed to try to find and stop the driver, the record shows. Clarksville Police were also on scene.

Testimony shows that at 9:17 p.m., while driving the wrong way, Barefoot collided with a car driven by Cole. A civilian passer-by first on scene was able to remove one child from the back seat; the child was injured but survived.

The first officer on scene immediately called for a medical helicopter based on the damage. "I could tell it was a very bad accident," he said.

Cole and Onstott-Dunn died just less than an hour later and the 3-year-old died an hour and 40 minutes later.

Barefoot was treated for a large cut to her leg. She was later charged and arrested April 20 when toxicology results were returned, but she has been out on bond since. During much of the Thursday hearing, she sat calmly next to her attorney; there were several times when she cried as evidence was being introduced.

Friends and family of Barefoot, Cole and Onstott-Dunn were in the courtroom, with some of the victims' friends and family wearing buttons and shirts remembering their loved ones. One shirt said "DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE."

Testimony shows Barefoot arrived at the party just before 4:30 p.m. March 7 to help set up. The party started at 6 and included a dinner buffet, door prizes, and two free drink tickets. A flyer for the event found in Barefoot's car also noted that more drinks would not be available for purchase. Two people who had been at the party testified that they hadn't seen Barefoot drink much alcohol; one person said maybe less than one alcoholic drink. They said she was acting "totally normal."

However, one said she had mentioned calling an Uber and called herself "a lightweight" with drinking. One person said on the stand that there had been discussion about Barefoot possibly getting a ride from someone, but that she ended up driving herself.

A former employee testified that after leaving the party, he and two others had gone to Barefoot's home when they couldn't reach her, and that after leaving her Louisville home, passed the crash and believed it might have been her involved since they had been unable to reach her and the car looked like hers.

The plea Barefoot made last month includes a cap of 28 years for her sentence. Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Terrence Cody took the plea under advisement last month and will make a decision after testimony concludes Friday.

If convicted of all original charges before the plea, she could have faced 42 years.

Court was expected to start at 9:30 a.m. Friday and continue with state's witnesses.

This story has been edited to correct where Taylor Barefoot had been prior to the March 7, 2020 crash.