An Oklahoma City man charged with killing three teenagers after he plowed his pick-up truck into a high school cross-country team has appeared in court.
On Friday, Max Townsend, 57, wore an orange jumpsuit and a blue face mask during a preliminary hearing in Cleveland County District Court where he is facing three counts of second-degree murder.
Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18, were killed in February when Townsend sped his car into a group of students from Moore High School while they were out on a cross-country run.
Martinez and Freeman were killed at the scene, while Crum died a week later in hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.
Three other teenagers – Joseph White, Shiloh Hutchison and Ashton Baza – were also seriously hurt in the incident.
The day before that crash, Townsend’s 29-year-old son, Cody, was killed in a multi-vehicle accident less than a mile away.
At the time, local reports claimed that Townsend may have been drunk and distraught over the death of his son.
However, a DUI charge was dismissed after a toxicology test failed to show that Townsend was above the legal limit of .08 blood-alcohol content.
Townsend previously pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the case before District Attorney Greg Mashburn upgraded the charges this month to second-degree murder.
‘He had extreme disregard for human life,’ Mashburn recently told the Associated Press.
‘I don’t think he cared who or what he hit.’
Townsend is additionally facing charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
Police say Townsend was driving nearly 80 mph in a 25 mph zone when he crossed two lanes of traffic onto a sidewalk and crashed into the group of cross-country runners.
After striking the students on the sidewalk, Townsend again cut across the traffic lanes and a yard, hitting more vehicles, according to the accident report.
A witness pursued Townsend for three blocks before stopping him, and police took him into custody.
Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis compared the crash scene with the carnage left by devastating tornadoes that have hit the city. One in 2013 claimed 24 lives, including seven at an elementary school.
‘It’s awful,’ Sergeant Lewis said. ‘We’ve dealt with some really tough things, but that’s the worst, even the tornadoes. Seeing those kids laying there.’
Yuridia Martinez, who died in the crash, was described as a friendly teenage girl who enjoyed watching movies and baking, according to News 9.
Her family told the station: ‘We were blessed for 16 years with an amazing baby girl who filled our home and our lives with joy and fun and beauty.
‘Yuridia had a heart for service and helping people in need. She loved her friends and adored her sisters. This is so difficult. We miss her very much. Please continue to pray for us, for Yuridia and for the children and families suffering this loss.’
Meanwhile, fellow victims Rachel Freeman and Kolby Crum were both accomplished runners who had participated in the local Moore War Run.
Michael Freeman, the father of Rachel, wrote an emotional Facebook post: ‘One week ago today, Max Townsend killed my daughter. Max. Townsend. Killed. My. Daughter. It seems strange even saying it. At times it still doesn’t seem real.
He continued: ‘Some have asked what my feelings are toward Townsend. I can honestly say I’ve spent very little time thinking about him, his condition, or his motives at the time.
‘Rejoice in Peace, Rachel. You’re not gone, just gone away.’
Townsend has a lengthy criminal record dating back to at least 1991, which includes convictions on charges of child abuse, possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance.
Additional charges listed on his rap sheet include DUI, drug trafficking and marijuana possession.