Driver charged with 13 felonies in student deaths, injuries

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn announced 13 felony charges against Max Leroy Townsend Friday as he speaks to the media at the Cleveland County Courthouse. Townsend is accused of hitting six Moore High School athletes with his truck before fleeing the scene, killing two and injuring four.

Alcohol played a critical role in the fatal hit-and-run that killed two Moore High School athletes and injured four others, prompting Cleveland County prosecutors to file 13 felony charges against the driver.

Max Leroy Townsend, 57, of Tuttle, was charged with two counts of manslaughter, two counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident, four counts of driving under the influence causing great bodily harm and five counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told reporters during a Friday press conference that investigators have made initial findings which show Townsend was driving 65-70 miles per hour when he drove into a pack of high school track and cross country runners. The athletes were participating in a routine workout in a neighborhood near the school.

Samples of Townsend's blood have been sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for analysis. Additional felony charges could be filed depending on Townsend's blood-alcohol content.

Three of the runners — Joseph White, Shiloh Hutchison and Ashton Baza — who suffered injuries have been released from the hospital, a spokeswoman at Children's Hospital said Friday. However, senior Kolby Crum remains in critical condition. Social media posts from his family indicate Crum suffered major head trauma and has experienced a series of strokes.

Rachel Freeman, a senior at Moore High School, died from her injuries at the scene. Yuridia Martinez, a 16-year-old sophomore, died Tuesday. Her funeral will be held 11 a.m. today at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 2706 S. Shartel, in Oklahoma City. Freeman's funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Moore Baptist Church, 301 NE 27th.

Investigators recovered video footage from the school and neighborhood residents that shows Townsend's Ford-F250 pickup hitting a vehicle and then ramming into the students. Part of the video showed at least two students being thrown in the air with one female landing in a nearby pond, Mashburn said. Another student who was unharmed dragged the female out of the pond and to safety.

"It [video] is very shocking," the prosecutor said, acknowledging that some of the victims were knocked out of their shoes. Photographs and video of the crime scene showed several pairs of running shoes strewn along the street.

After hitting the students, Townsend continued driving and finally came to a stop after striking another vehicle in a driveway at 108 S. Morgan Drive. Mashburn said students who followed Townsend took his keys away from him as he tried to restart the vehicle.

Townsend admitted he drank a beer before driving, but Mashburn declined to provide other details about Townsend's comments to police. A police affidavit shows officers at the scene determined Townsend had "several" indicators that he was intoxicated. Police reported that the defendant performed poorly on the field sobriety tests.

Townsend reportedly spent most of Monday "drinking and mourning the loss of his son," Mashburn said. Townsend's son, who was 29, died in a car crash in Moore Sunday.

Townsend, who is on suicide watch at the county jail, has a lengthy criminal history which prosecutors might be able to use to enhance punishments if the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted by a jury.

Mashburn reassured victims' families during the press conference that he will work to convict Townsend of the felonies filed on Friday.

"This is why I do the job," he said. "I didn't want to meet them [families] in these circumstances. They need to know our thoughts and prayers go out to them."

Mashburn also made it clear Townsend will not see the light of day since he has a $1.2 million bond. However, if Townsend were able to post bail, prosecutors would seek a higher bond and possibly ask a judge to deny bond, the prosecutor said.

Tim Farley

366-3539

tfarley@normantranscript.com

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