NORMAN — Charges against a man accused of running over a group of Moore High School cross-country runners in February were updated to 11 felony counts on Monday.
Max Townsend is now being charged with three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and five counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury.
Townsend was previously charged with three counts of manslaughter, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident, one count of DUI causing great bodily injury and four counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said the upgraded charges reflect months of investigation and a recent toxicology report that showed Townsend had alcohol and marijuana in his system, but less than they anticipated.
"Looking at all the evidence, talking to witnesses, reading reports ... the facts better suited second-degree murder charges," Mashburn said.
The second-degree charges lower the minimum sentence from 40 to 10 years if convicted, but Mashburn said they are still seeking the maximum sentence of life in prison.
"If we could charge him with first-degree murder, we would, but there's no evidence that he specifically aimed his vehicle at these kids. But he was clearly very reckless when he pressed his foot on the accelerator in a school zone. ... Just because the minimum sentence has lowered, that has not changed our goal of seeking life in prison for (Townsend)," Mashburn said.
Townsend, 57, of Tuttle, was arrested on Feb. 7 after allegedly running over seven Moore cross-country runners, killing Rachel Freeman, Kolby Crum and Yuridia Martinez and injuring four others near Moore High School.
According to Cleveland County prosecutors, Townsend was driving nearly 80 mph before he crashed into the runners.
There is a preliminary hearing set for Townsend at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 24 at the Cleveland County District Courthouse.