Grand jury indicts Avis in fatal pursuit

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Vine Grove man charged related to police officer's death

By Sarah Bennett

A Vine Grove man charged with leading a Hodgenville police officer on a fatal vehicle pursuit was indicted Monday with a charge of wanton murder.

Jason L. Avis, 29, originally was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and first-degree fleeing or evading police when Kentucky State Police arrested him Sept. 16.

In addition to those charges, the LaRue County grand jury indicted him on charges of wanton murder, leaving the scene of an accident and first-degree persistent felony offense.

An indictment is an allegation, not proof of guilt. Avis is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The indictment alleges Avis committed wanton murder by “operating a motor vehicle in excess of posted speed limits and in a reckless manner and thereby causing the death of Mark Allen Taulbee.”

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Whitney Meredith said the Kentucky Revised Statute that covers murder includes two subsections, one that describes murder as an act intending to result in death and a second defining it as a wanton action resulting in death.

“The result may not be what Mr. Avis intended,” Meredith said, “but because of his conduct, the officer’s death was caused.”

Because of the straight stretch of roadway on which Avis and Taulbee were traveling, Meredith said state police believe Avis may have taken action, such as slamming on his brakes, to cause the officer to lose control of his vehicle.

“They feel as if something caused the crash,” Meredith said. “(Officer Taulbee) didn’t just lose control of his vehicle.”

According to KSP, Avis led Taulbee on a vehicle pursuit the morning of Sept. 16 on Ky. 210 during which the Hodgenville officer lost control of his cruiser and later died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Avis fled the scene but turned himself in several hours later at LaRue County Detention Center, police said.

According to officials, Avis was involved in a “domestic disturbance” and Taulbee spotted a gray Nissan Altima matching a vehicle description reported to police.

When the officer turned on his lights, Avis allegedly refused to pull over, and Taulbee called in a pursuit to dispatch, officials said.

According to KSP, Taulbee’s vehicle spun around clockwise and struck an earth embankment on the driver’s side, which caused the vehicle to go airborne. Despite wearing a seat belt, Taulbee was ejected from the cruiser.

Taulbee was buried Sept. 21 in his family’s cemetery in Cecilia following a service at the Hodgenville City Hall-Civic Center.

According to the indictment, Avis is charged with first-degree persistent felony offense because of previous convictions in 2001 and 2010 in Hardin Circuit Court for charges of complicity to commit third-degree burglary, complicity to commit theft by unlawful taking, complicity to commit third-degree criminal mischief and intimidating a participant in a legal process.

He is lodged at the LaRue County jail in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.

Prior to the indictment, his bond was set at $25,000 cash.

He is scheduled to appear for arraignment at 9 a.m. Dec. 3 in LaRue Circuit Court.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.