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Father guilty in son's death while riding recklessly on motorcycle

Published November 13, 2013 8:31 pm

Courts • Toddler rode with no helmet as dad sped on motorcycle.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The motorcycle turned heads as it whizzed through the parking lot.

It was moving fast. Too fast, witnesses testified Wednesday. The toddler seated between its handle bars wore no helmet as the bike careened around corners on Aug 5, 2012.

A teenager called out to the man on the motorcycle: "Slow down, you idiot!"

A woman called out from her patio: "There's a reason they don't make helmets that small!"

But Shannon Terrell Moore didn't stop. Not until he lost control of the bike and was flung more than 50 feet onto the pavement alongside his 22-month-old son, R.J.

Moore, 49, suffered bone fractures to his head, face and collar bone, a dislocated shoulder and memory loss. The child died.

On Wednesday, a jury ruled it was the Taylorsville father's fault.

After about two hours of jury deliberation, Moore was convicted in 3rd District Court of child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony for which he could spend up to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.

He was also convicted of misdemeanor counts of unlawful motorcycle riding, driving on a suspended or revoked license and having a minor not wear protective headgear while on a motorcycle.

Moore, who took the stand in his own defense Wednesday, said he loved his son and would never have done anything to hurt the boy. He didn't see riding around the parking lot of the Bridgeside Way apartments in Taylorsville as a high-risk activity — despite not having a helmet for the child and allowing him to sit in an improper position.

"We rode that motorbike together almost every day," Moore testified. "I loved my son"

But prosecutors argued that he should have known better. An experienced motorcycle owner who has driven bikes for nearly 40 years, they said, knew the risks and ignored them.

"Each choice he made was ignoring safety rules that are there for a reason," said prosecutor Sandi Johnson. "The defendant's argument is, 'I've done this so many times and nothing bad has ever happened before,' but that doesn't mean the risks weren't there. ... He was playing Russian Roulette."

Unified Police Detective Michael Anderson, the lead investigator on the case, testified that according to evidence found at the scene of the crash, Moore had been driving at least 41 mph when he lost control of the bike, but was probably driving closer to 50 mph before then.

He said Moore lost control because the front tires locked, a result of improper braking.

"Why would an experienced driver, who knows how to brake properly, over-brake like that?" asked defense attorney Danny Frazier Jr.

"Panic," Anderson said.

Moore testified that he never had such a problem before. He'd taken his toddler son out on his motorcycle dozens of times. He'd done the same with his older two sons, who sat silently in the courtroom Wednesday, wiping tears from their cheeks as they watched their father stand trial.

Across the aisle sat Sequoia Moore, the defendant's now ex-wife, surrounded by friends and family.

She was dressed in bright green with a ribbon pinned to her blouse that bore her son's initials, R.J. The color and the ribbon are meant to commemorate frogs, which her son loved. Since his death, she said, she's learned to find hope in the small amphibians.

Frogs, the mother said, can only hop forward. And so must she.

Shannon Terrell Moore will be sentenced before Judge Deno Himonas in January.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae