At around 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2019, Dominique Taylor was barrelling down Maryland’s Route 301 in her Chrysler Pacifica. Her SUV was packed with five children — and the 33-year-old mother was supposedly drunk.
It was early and still dark when Taylor’s SUV drifted off the highway, striking a tree, killing everyone onboard, with the exception of herself. This week, officials announced that Taylor pleaded guilty to six counts of vehicular manslaughter.
“I’m very pleased, and I think it was the right thing to do, to plead guilty,” State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy told Oxygen.com. “To save both her family and the families of the individuals who lost their lives that night, to save them the agony of going through a trial, which I’m sure would have been emotional — I think that was the right choice for her."
The 45-year-old state prosecutor called the fatal crash a tragedy of “enormous proportion.”
Taylor’s children, 8-year-old London Dixon and 5-year-old Paris Dixon were killed, along with her cousin’s children: Rickelle Ricks, 6, Zion Beard, 14, and Damari Herald, 15. Cornell Simon, a 23-year-old passenger, died in the hospital weeks after the wreck.
Prosecutors said Taylor’s blood alcohol level was .16 at the time of the crash — twice the legal limit. Detectives surmised she had likely been traveling between 50 and 55 miles per hour when she collided with the tree near Bowie, Maryland about 30 miles southwest of Baltimore.
“[Taylor] lost control of her vehicle and traveled off the roadway sideways in a counter clockwise direction into a wooded area, where it struck several large trees with its right rear passenger side,” according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.
“The force of the impact caused the roof of the Chrysler to cave in on itself, the rear hatch to break from its mounts, the rear passenger door to sheer off and wrap around into the rear quarter panel, and the right rear wheel to be ripped from its axle mount,” the documents added. “The Chrysler then began to rotate clockwise while exiting the wood line into a snow-covered grass field.”
When Taylor’s SUV hit the tree, the children were “lifted off the bench seat” and thrown from the vehicle. Four of the five children were thrown from the passenger side of Taylor’s SUV and landed in a field. Herald, the 15-year-old, was “ejected from the rear hatch, up into the trees, where he got caught up in vines, and ultimately landed on the ground in the field.”
Four of the five children, authorities said, were decapitated. They weren’t wearing seatbelts.
“It was heartbreaking,” Braveboy described, choking back tears, She attended the closed casket funeral for the children.
“You can’t imagine not being able to say goodbye to your child because you don’t have a full body,” she said. “This is the worst of the worst.”
Taylor and Simon, however, had buckled up, and remained in the vehicle during the collision. Simon, though, had to be removed from the SUV by fire department rescue workers. Police said Taylor suffered “serious but non-life threatening injuries.” In a booking photo provided by Prince George’s State’s Attorney Office, she appears to be in a neck brace.
“I have never seen a person more devastated,” Taylor’s criminal defense attorney John McKenna told Oxygen.com.
The 51-year-old attorney said his client, who has no prior drinking and driving record, has been “haunted” by the aftermath of the horrific crash.
“She’s a mess,” McKenna added. “The victims were her children and her family. And she loved them and she mourns them every day. I can’t envision anything more tragic. It breaks my heart.”
The state prosecutor noted that the day before Taylor’s guilty plea, a judge across the country in Washington had sentenced Thomas Hawks to 22 years in prison for killing three children in a drunk driving crash in late 2018. In that case, Hawks supposedly collided with a family of five who were coming home from church. Hawks had been watching a Washington Redskins game before getting behind the wheel.
“You get on the road and you’re driving impaired, you put yourself at risk and you put everyone on the road at risk,” Braveboy explained. “It’s a crime. Drinking and driving and causing an accident is a crime.”
Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13. She faces up to 30 years in prison, according to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.