By SEAN MURPHY The Associated Press (The City Sentinel)
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma man convicted of crashing his pickup truck into members of a high school cross country team, killing three and injuring several others, was sentenced August to three life sentences.
Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley ordered Max Leroy Townsend, 58, to serve the life sentences consecutively, making it unlikely he will ever be released from prison. Townsend, wearing orange jail coveralls and with his hands and feet shackled, showed little reaction.
“There’s not enough years that I can give Mr. Townsend,” Walkley said after hearing several members of the victims’ families deliver tearful victim-impact statements. “While the trial was difficult, today was not.”
Townsend’s attorney, Kevin Butler, maintained Townsend lost consciousness before the crash.
“It’s always been Mr. Townsend’s position that he was unconscious at the time of the accident, and that’s his position today,” Butler said.
Prosecutors said Townsend accelerated his pickup truck to 77 mph (124 kph) before crashing into the runners from Moore High School in suburban Oklahoma City in February 2020. Authorities have said the truck crossed two lanes of traffic, veered onto a sidewalk and crashed into the runners. Rachel Freeman, 17, Yuridia Martinez, 16, and Kolby Crum, 18, were killed in the crash.
“These three children were wonderful children whose futures were so bright,” said prosecutor Jennifer Austin. “He left them there, all those children, on the ground. He left them there as he tried to flee.”
Family members testified Thursday that Freeman and Crum, both seniors, had received college scholarships to run cross country. Crum was planning to sign his letter of intent two weeks after the crash, said his mother Tansey Helbusch.
“In the blink of an eye, Max Townsend stole that from him,” Helbusch said. “The pain of losing Kolby is indescribable. A part of me died with him.”
Freeman’s father, Michael Freeman, described his daughter Rachel as “”full of live and friends to everyone who knew her.”
“I do want Mr. Townsend to know I’ve forgiven him, even though he doesn’t deserve it,” Freeman said. “I’m not asking this court for vengeance because that’s in God’s hands, but I do ask for justice.”
The court also heard from Shiloh Hutchinson, a cross country teammate who suffered a broken ankle and hand and other injuries.
“Seeing what I saw that day, no 16-year-old should have to see,” Hutchinson said. “I shouldn’t be here right now.”
Townsend indicated to the judge that he planned to appeal.