ROCHESTER, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana woman was convicted Friday of reckless homicide for plowing her pickup truck into four children, killing three of them, as they crossed a two-lane highway to board their school bus.
The Fulton County jury also found Alyssa Shepherd, 24, guilty of criminal recklessness in the Oct. 30, 2018, crash that killed 6-year-old twin brothers Xzavier and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl. Maverik Lowe, 11, was critically injured.
Shepherd and her attorneys left the courtroom after the verdict was read and made no statement. She could face up to 21 ½ years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 18.
At the time of her arrest, Shepherd told authorities she didn’t realize that she was approaching a stopped school bus, despite the activated stop arm and flashing lights. Court documents show Shepherd told police she saw the lights but didn’t recognize the vehicle as a school bus until the children were right in front of her.
Shepherd took the witness stand Friday and under questioning by defense attorney Michael Tuszynski she remembered seeing blinking lights and something that appeared to be a large vehicle. But she said she didn’t see a bus, nor did she see the red sign telling her to stop. She described emotions ranging from disbelief to hysteria after realizing she had struck the children.
“The only way I can describe it is an out-of-body experience,” Shepherd said. “I was a mess.”
In closing arguments, Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs said the bus stop had been in place for 50 years without a child being killed. Marrs also reminded the jury of testimony from a driver who was behind Shepherd who said she could tell there was a school bus with its warning lights on and stop arm extended.
“The thing that makes me sick here is that this never should have happened,” Marrs said.
Tuszynski argued Shepherd’s actions did not meet the definition of reckless. He said for her actions to be reckless, she would have had to know it was a stopped bus with children boarding and just not care.
The crash led to statewide changes, prompting the Legislature to increase penalties for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.