'How am I going to endure this?' Windsor family prepares for trial of accused in daughter’s death
The first-degree murder trial of the man accused of killing Autumn Taggart, 31, is slated to begin Tuesday, more than three years after her death.
“It’s been horrible to this point,” says John Taggart, Autumns’ father. “It’s been difficult, incredibly difficult and they’re [Victim Services] reminding us its going to get a whole lot worse.”
Taggart and court staff confirm, jury selection will begin Tuesday in Windsor’s Superior Courthouse in the trial of Jitesh Bhogal, 31, charged with first degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and break and enter.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Autumn Taggart’s body was discovered inside her apartment on University Avenue on June 10, 2018. Taggart had a son, who was nine years old at the time she died.
“Her true love was Gavin,” says John Taggart “He grew into having the same sweet disposition that she had.”
Taggart says they have attended “dozens” of court proceedings in the last three years, many in-person in the courthouse.
The trial was initially scheduled to begin in November 2020, but then the pandemic worsened, and jury trials were suspended.
“It was heart-wrenching. We were ready to get moved on with this [trial].” says Taggart.
According to Assistant Crown Attorney Ilana Mizel, the trial by Judge and Jury is expected to begin Tuesday for eight weeks.
Court staff tell CTV News that four days have been set aside for jury selection.
Taggart says they are not allowed to attend jury selection, because the lawyers and judge will be using the extra courtrooms to keep potential jurors physically distant.
Even when the trial begins, Taggart says the family is not allowed in the courtroom, to maintain physical distancing.
“We have some objections to that,” says Taggart “That should be our right, at least one or two of the parents to be a representative for Autumn.”
Taggart says they are allowed to be at the courthouse, but must watch the proceedings via zoom in an overflow courtroom, which also limits the gallery to a maximum of 10 people.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General drafted a policy for the resumption of court services in March 2021.
One section reads, “Courtroom Reconfiguration: The layout of each courtroom has been adjusted, to the degree feasible, to support physical distancing between the members of the court, the clerk/reporter desk, witness box, parties, jurors and the public.”
Taggart says the courtroom has been redesigned, so the jury sits where the gallery used to be, and the accused will sit where the jury used to be located inside the courtroom.
He plans to go to court as often as possible and hopes to get a seat to listen to the proceedings, even if they are virtual.
“Zoom has had its technical difficulties,” says Taggart “We’ve been missing bits and pieces with freezing and not being able hear certain things. So that’s a process. Not a good one.”
Pandemic measures aside, Taggart says he’s worried about the strain an eight-week trial will have on his family.
“How am I going to endure this? I don’t know what it’s going to do.” Says Taggart. “It really resurfaces all those emotions."