On the final day of testimony in the Moore hit-and-run trial Thursday, the state took jurors through a reconstruction of the crash and the defense brought its only two witnesses.
Prosecutors Thursday finished tracing the visible path of destruction Max Townsend and his truck left on Moore’s Main Street in February 2020. Townsend is charged with three counts of second degree murder for killing three Moore High School runners in the crash.
Master Sgt. James White of the Moore Police Department walked through a reconstruction of Townsend’s route past the school, explaining photos that showed clothing fibers from Rachel Freeman, Joseph White and Kolby Crum left behind on Townsend’s car.
White and other MPD officers recreated Townsend’s path past the high school after the crash, setting up a test scenario to discover how Townsend got to such a high speed so quickly. It took “a hard acceleration” for the officers to reach Townsend’s speed in the short stretch of road where he went from 24 to 77 mph, White said.
Townsend and his representation, meanwhile, kept with their claim that Townsend choked and passed out behind the wheel, a defense that jurors heard echoed in jail calls from after the crash. The state played recorded snippets of several calls Thursday.
While his phone conversations from the Cleveland County Detention Center were mostly muffled or inaudible, audio of Townsend’s calls with his sister showed he seemed to know few of the details of what happened Feb. 3. His sister revealed in one call that he had been driving more than 70 mph at the time of the crash, while on another call, he seemed surprised he had committed the hit-and-run at all.
“How did this happen to me?” Townsend asked his sister, telling her “it wasn’t me.” He had been reading scripture, he told her, and was assured of the existence of the devil.
On calls played later in the lineup, Townsend told an unidentified man that he choked and blacked out, waking up after the crash.
The state also showed home security video of Townsend’s truck speeding into the neighborhood. While grainy, the video shows Townsend upright in the driver’s seat, White said.
Kevin Butler, Townsend’s attorney, dissected that footage and more with White on the stand, attempting to show that Townsend sped up right after he rolled down the window of his truck. The assertion played to Townsend’s claim that he rolled down his window to spit out Red Bull, choked and passed out, coming to only after the hit and run.
Butler attempted to show that the home security video may depict Townsend with his head down in the driver’s seat, but White contended the enhanced video was too distorted to tell. Multiple state witnesses have testified they saw Townsend upright and apparently in control of the truck as he passed the high school and hit the runners.
Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office Captain Brandi Garner said Thursday that Townsend never talked about any health issues he needed treatment for on admittance to the jail. According to Garner, an intake form with his signature showed that on arrival at the jail, Townsend said he consumed four beers and “a couple shots” in the 24 hours before the hit-and-run.
After the state rested its case, the defense called
its expert witness Jimmie Valentine, who holds a PhD and specializes in clinical pharmacology and forensic toxicology.
Valentine testified that based on his knowledge and research, alcohol could not have caused the crash, especially since Townsend’s blood alcohol level was .068, a number below the legal limit.
“The alcohol level was not enough to explain what occurred with this accident,” he said on the stand.
He also said Townsend’s claim that he passed out behind the wheel was “plausible.”
But on cross examination, Valentine also said he was not given all the information.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Austin pressed Valentine, asking him if his opinion would change if he knew there were four witnesses who all testified they saw Townsend alert with his hands on the wheel before the crash. Valentine appeared baffled.
“Why didn’t you all tell me this earlier?” he asked both the defense and prosecution.
Valentine said even with the new information, his opinion about the crash did not change.
The defense’s final witness was Townsend’s sister, Wanda Jones.
Jones said Townsend called her the day of the crash and told her he was “feeling funny” and he “shouldn’t be driving,” she told the defense.
But the state pointed out that Jones never told a detective that when questioned about the incident.
According to the state, when the detective asked Jones if Townsend ever told her he wasn’t feeling well or felt odd, she explicitly answered no.
Jones repeatedly tried to avoid answering the state’s questions about the incident, but ultimately admitted that what she told the court was completely different from what she told the detective in February 2020.
The defense rested after Jones left the stand.
Friday will mark the conclusion of the Moore hit-and-run trial. Closing arguments begin at 9 a.m.; the jury is set to start deliberations at some point Friday.