Man Who Killed High School Runners Learns Fate

It's 3 consecutive life sentences for Oklahoma's Max Townsend
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2021 9:01 AM CDT
Man Who Killed High School Runners Learns Fate
Max Townsend arrives for his sentencing Thursday, in Norman, Okla.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

An Oklahoma man will likely never leave prison again after plowing his truck into a high school cross-country team, killing three and injuring four, on the day after his own son's death. Kolby Crum, 18; Rachel Freeman, 17; and Yuridia Martinez, 16, died as a result of the Feb. 3, 2020 incident in Moore, which saw Townsend driving 77mph in a 25mph zone, reportedly while drunk. "Justice has been served," Yuridia's mother, Erika Martinez, told KFOR Thursday after Max Townsend, 58, was sentenced to serve three consecutive life sentences.

A Cleveland County jury convicted him of three counts of second-degree murder in June, per KOCO. The mothers of all three teens gave victim impact statements at Thursday's hearing. Kolby's mother, Tansey Hellbusch, said her son's last words were "go help the others." He "would never abandon anybody on the side of the road hurting"—which is what prosecutors say Townsend did in fleeing the scene. "He left them there, all those children, on the ground," prosecutor Jennifer Austin said Thursday, per the AP.

Townsend's attorney, Kevin Butler, claimed Townsend was unconscious at the wheel, having choked on a sip of Red Bull; prosecutors said he had alcohol and THC in his system at the time of the crash. District Judge Lori Walkley upheld the jury's recommendation of life in prison at the hearing. "There's not enough years that I can give Mr. Townsend," she said following the victim-impact statements, in which Hellbusch testified that seniors Freeman and Crum had received college scholarships to run cross country. Townsend—whose 29-year-old son died in a car accident on Feb. 2, 2020—plans to appeal. (More life sentence stories.)

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