SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYO – Stephen Jeffrey Taranovich, 41, was formally charged Tuesday afternoon with Involuntary Manslaughter in the shooting death Sunday of 43-year-old Danielle Nichole Martin at a residence north of Rock Springs. Involuntary Manslaughter, as charged in Taranovich’s case, carries a maximum possible penalty of imprisonment of not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $10,000 or both, but, in addition, prosecutors have also filed a Notice of Intent to Seek Enhancement, which could, potentially, net him life in prison.
Sweetwater County Sheriff Mike Lowell said patrol deputies responded Sunday afternoon to the report of a shooting at 113 Pyramid Drive, the residence of Stephen Ray Kiskis. At the scene, they discovered Taranovich, Kiskis, and the body of Danielle Martin, dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Kiskis told county detectives Taranovich and Martin went into his (Kiskis’s) bedroom, where he assumed they “were going to smoke ‘dope,’ because that is where they always smoke ‘dope.’”
According to court documents, Kiskis said he “went into the bedroom as well and sat somewhere in the middle of the bed with his head near the top of the bed. Taranovich was sitting in a black computer chair on the north side of the bedroom across from the bed. Martin was sitting on her knees with her head resting on the bottom of the bed.
Martin began complaining about wanting to go home. Kiskis saw that Taranovich had a handgun sitting in his lap. The gun was pointed in the direction of Martin. Kiskis heard the gun go off and saw that Taranovich shot Martin. Kiskis said he believed that it was accidental.
Taranovich told detectives he and Danielle Martin “have been in an on-again, off-again dating relationship for 15 years.” He admitted to using ‘dope’ at Kiskis’ home. While in the bedroom, Taranovich said Kiskis was sitting on the bed, Martin was kneeling next to the foot of the bed, and he [Taranovich] was sitting on a chair across from Martin and the bed.
Taranovich said he had a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson that he took out of his back pocket. He took the slide, barrel, and spring off of the handgun and began cleaning the gun with a t-shirt or rag. Taranovich said he “put the gun back together and did not realize there was a live round in the chamber.”
As outlined in the court documents, Taranovich admitted that the gun was pointed in the direction of Martin although this was unintentional. Taranovich stated that in order to release the ‘tension’ on the gun, he had to pull the trigger. Taranovich pulled the trigger and the gun went off. Taranovich admitted that he “unintentionally shot Martin.”
Habitual criminal status
The Notice of Intent to Seek Enhancement describes three previous felony convictions for Taranovich—a 1996 conviction for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance, 5th Offense, Intent to Sell, a 2005 conviction for Marijuana Producing, a felony, in Florida, and, also in 2005, a conviction for Vehicle Grand Theft, a felony, in Florida.
As described in the Notice, Taranovich is “subject to the enhanced sentence under the Habitual Criminal statute §6- 10-201(a) which states that a person is a habitual criminal if he is convicted of a violent felony; and he has been convicted of a felony on three (3) or more previous charges separately brought and tried which arose out of separate occurrences in this state or elsewhere… a habitual criminal convicted of three (3) previous felony convictions shall be punished by imprisonment for life.”
Circuit Court Judge Craig Jones set Taranovich’s bond at $600,000, cash or surety. As of press time, he remains in custody at the Sweetwater County Detention Center. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 6.