Involuntary Manslaughter Case Moves Forward

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The case is moving forward for a Rock Springs man charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Stephen Jeffrey Taranovich, 41,  faces a charge of Involuntary Manslaughter for the death of 43-year-old Danielle Nichole Martin on January 28, 2018.

During a preliminary hearing today, Judge Craig Jones determined that the state met its burden of probable cause to move the felony charge forward to district court.

Taranovich’s bond remains at $600,000 cash or surety.

Prosecutors have filed a Notice of Intent to Seek Enhancement under the the Habitual Criminal statute. If sentenced as a habitual criminal, Taranovich would face a possible life sentence if convicted.

What is a preliminary hearing?

While some states utilize a grand jury for indictments, Wyoming usually utilizes a preliminary hearing to move a felony case forward to district court.

But what exactly is a preliminary hearing?

“Basically—what the preliminary hearing is—it’s a probable cause hearing where the state has to show that they have probable cause to charge this person with that felony,” said Sweetwater County Attorney Daniel Erramouspe. “It’s not a reasonable doubt. Probable cause is a lesser burden to prove.”

In this case, the state had to establish the elements of Involuntary Manslaughter which includes that the defendant acted “recklessly.”

Now that Judge Jones decided probable cause is met, the case will be bound over to district court. An arraignment will take place in district court during which Taranovich will enter a plea and bond may be readdressed.

About the Case

According to court documents, Taranovich and Martin visited a friend’s residence on Pyramid Drive the afternoon of January 28, 2018.

Taranovich said he and Martin were in an on again/off again relationship for the past 15 years. He said they had not been arguing prior to the incident.

Taranovich admitted to using “dope” prior to the shooting. He told detectives that he had a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson which he removed from his back pocket. He allegedly told investigators that he took the slide, barrel, and spring off the handgun and began to clean the gun with a t-shirt or rag. After putting the gun back together, Taranovich said he pulled the trigger to release the tension on the gun, at which point the gun fired shooting Martin in the head.

Taranovich said he did not know a live round was in the chamber, and the gun was unintentionally pointed at Martin.

The friend, who was in the room at the time of the shooting, allegedly told officers that he believed the incident was accidental.

Taranovich allegedly called his mother following the shooting and then called 911 about half an hour after the incident occurred. His friend who was present during the shooting said he wanted to call 911, but Taranovich wanted to do it himself.