CORNER BROOK — Donna Elms knew Morgan John Taylor’s release from prison would eventually come.
She even saw documentation that said his “earliest release date” would be Oct. 18, 2013.
On Jan. 7, two days after the second anniversary of the day the mentally ill man ran over and killed her 22-year-old son, Christopher Farrell, on a Port aux Basques street in 2011, Elms got a call to inform her that Taylor had applied for day parole.
In advance of Taylor’s hearing before the National Parole Board, Elms went about writing a new version of her victim impact statement — one that reflected how her life has been since Taylor was sentenced to 22 months in prison last July 26.
She thought it would be at least a couple more months before the parole board would be in a position to decide whether Taylor should be granted day parole. Whenever that decision was made, Elms assumed Taylor would be on day parole for the maximum of six months before being granted full parole.
Last week, she was told a decision could come within one or two weeks.
On Tuesday, she was called again and told the board had met and decided to grant Taylor day parole for two months. The board has also decided that he will be granted full parole once those two months have been served.
“I dont know if I misunderstood, but I had the impression that this would be a lengthier process,” said Elms. “And I assumed he would get the maximum six months of day parole, with his history with the law, his medical history and all the statements we did.”
On Jan. 5, 2011, Taylor had refused to take prescribed medication for a diagnosed mental illness. Upset that roads in Rose Blanche were not cleared and sanded, he then threatened to blow someone’s head off at the town office.
Taylor left the town office in haste. The RCMP were called, and a vehicular pursuit of Taylor ensued. Instead of stopping for police, Taylor sped up to the point where the officers gave up the pursuit for safety reasons.
It was in this state of mind that Taylor reached Port aux Basques, some 40 kilometres away from Rose Blanche, and struck Farrell as he walked to meet his mother for lunch.
While alcohol was not a factor in this case, Taylor does have three prior convictions for drunk driving. He was given a 26-month sentence for dangerous driving causing death and for causing a disturbance, but was given four months credit for time served in pre-sentence custody. He was also given three years of probation and an eight-year driving prohibition.
In her latest victim impact statement, Elms described how things haven’t gotten any easier since Taylor was sentenced.
“If anything, it’s a tad worse because it’s more real and I miss Christopher more as time goes on,” said Elms. “I live in the past now. I only had one child and don’t have anything to look forward to anymore.”
That hurt extends to her mother sister and all of her son’s friends too, noted Elms.
She hoped the victim impact statements she provided for the sentencing hearing and for the parole board would make more of a difference in terms of how long Taylor was incarcerated.
Elms would like to see better communication between the justice system and the victims of crime. That, she said, might have better prepared her for Taylor getting day and full parole earlier than she thought he would.
“I assume the judges and the lawyers all knew this could happen before I thought it would,” she said. “Why didn’t they tell us that?
“It’s really hard to swallow that a man could kill Christopher and get six months behind bars out of a 22-month sentence. Christopher’s life is worth a lot more than six months.”
Elms is part of a group of three families of people who have been killed by reckless drivers. They are advocating for longer prison sentences for those convicted of such crimes.
In the last two months, there have been at least three instances of families in Newfoundland and Labrador caught off-guard by the early release of persons convicted of killing their loved ones.
“Something has to be done to change this,” Elms said. “It’s too late for Christopher, but it’s not too late for the next person. And there is going to be a next person.”
In its written decision on granting Taylor day parole, the parole board stated that Taylor has expressed genuine remorse for what happened, has been under the care of a psychiatrist since the incident and has been complying with taking the medication prescribed for his mental health condition.
The board went on to say that Taylor would be “closely monitored” during his day parole and that his eventual full parole was “a manageable option” for him.
The decision also noted how the public would not be placed at undue risk, and that local police were not opposed to Taylor’s reintegration back into the community at this point.
According to an information sheet provided by the National Parole Board, Taylor will be eligible for full parole on March 7. The full term of his 22-month sentence does not end until May 30, 2014.