A Wagener man will spend the next several years in prison for drug charges that contributed to the death of 2 year old RieLee Lovell.
Charles Mix County Judge Bruce Anderson sentenced Taylor Cournoyer to 25 years in prison, the maximum charge for the use of Methamphetamines and occupying a home where drugs are used.
Cournoyer and his wife Laurie were caring for six children when they were doing meth and other drugs when the girl died over the Fourth of July weekend. Evidence in Thursday's sentencing hearing revealed it took nearly 22 hours before the couple noticed she was dead.
During earlier hearings, RieLee Lovell's family and the community protested outside the courthouse, saying local police don't take drug charges seriously and asking for a longer sentence for Cournoyer.
Taylor Cournoyer does have a history with breaking the law, including a felony and other drug charges.
A typical drug offender receives three to four years in prison, with some time suspended.
In his ruling Thursday, Judge Anderson said because of Cournoyer's prior offenses and the special circumstances surrounding the case, the maximum sentence was applied.
"This is a special circumstance because people always say drugs are a victimless crime. The drug use in his house with 6 children, so the drugs were available to the children, so that he wasn't available to the children, shows you the victims of the drug use," said Deputy States Attorney William Golden during his arguments at the sentencing hearing.
RieLee Lovell's father, Guilovelo Lovell, agreed that Cournoyer deserved the maximum sentence.
He said RieLee was a very happy little girl.
"She always made people smile, I miss her a lot," said Lovell.
Lovell says he holds both Taylor and Laurie Cournoyer responsible for his daughter's death.
Deputy States Attorney William Golden said 21 year old Taylor began using drugs to escape some of the stress the six children brought.
"When he was supposed to be taking care of the children, he was using drugs, and he was using them to escape his responsibility to those children," said Golden.
While the sentence was heavy, Cournoyer won't be serving the full 25 years, something RieLee's father isn't happy about.
"I wish he would be serving more of the sentence the court gave him," said Lovell.
Ten of Cournoyer's 25 year sentence was suspended; he will be eligible for parole after about 5 years in the state penitentiary.
Witnesses for the defense testified that Cournoyer was a caring and responsible father figure before he started using drugs.
"As you can see, the result of what happened when they do use it, people just need to realize that kids are more important," said Lovell.
During the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor played some audio from the police interrogation of Cournoyer. In it, Cournoyer expresses his disbelief at how he couldn't have checked on the two year old for such a long period of time. The prosecutor said drugs were the clear answer.
Laurie Cournoyer, Taylor's wife and the mother of four of the six children in the house, is waiting for a jury trial for drug charges, child neglect and failure to report the death of a child.
We will keep you up to speed as her trial progresses.
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