Max Townsend

Cleveland County deputies escort Max Townsend, on June 18, out of Judge Walkley’s court.

The state continued its case in the Moore hit-and-run trial early this week, calling witnesses, first responders and coaches to the stand for an emotional two days of testimony.

Max Townsend is charged with three counts of second degree murder for hitting multiple cross country and track students outside Moore High School on Feb. 3, 2020.

Townsend’s defense is not denying he was behind the wheel or that the accident happened; Townsend’s attorneys say he choked on a Red Bull, passed out and lost control of his car.

The state, meanwhile, has worked over the last week to establish that Townsend was conscious and in control when he hit the runners. Four state witnesses have testified they saw Townsend with both hands on the wheel sitting up prior to the crash; two testified they saw him with his eyes open.

On Monday, Reagan Thaxton, a Moore High School graduate who was on the track team when the hit-and-run occurred, emotionally relived the day her friends were killed. Later that night, they were supposed to go to their senior banquet, but they never made it, she said.

Thaxton testified that as she left the field house that day, she saw “socks and shoes” scattered across the road.

Thaxton said she remembers seeing Kolby Crum in the middle of the road with his shoes and socks scattered. She was running toward him when she realized Rachel Freeman was lying motionless on the ground. As she approached Freeman, Thaxton noticed her body and hips were in “a weird placement.”

“I ran up and asked if anyone had checked for a pulse,” Thaxton said. “They just looked at me and didn’t really say anything. So, I moved her body into a somewhat normal position and I checked for a pulse. I don’t remember feeling one.”

When she couldn’t find a pulse, Thaxton said she began two rounds of CPR, stopping only when her coach pulled her off of Freeman.

Moore Police Officer Justin Sternburg — who immediately classified Freeman as “high priority” — then continued CPR on Freeman, only to stop once he realized her “chest cavity has collapsed.”

“She’s gone, she’s crushed,” he said in body camera footage shown in court.

Sternburg started crying while on the stand as he told the jury “there was nothing we could do” and there were no signs of life in Freeman.

“My focus was primarily Rachel Freeman until she passed,” he said.

Chris Edwards, the MHS assistant wrestling coach and a Mustang firefighter, sprinted out of the field house down to the scene of the wreckage. His instincts as a firefighter jumped into action and he began to conduct triage on all the victims, he said.

Crum and Yuridia Martinez were coded red for critical. Freeman was coded black for deceased. Crum died in the hospital less than two weeks later.

“There were no signs of life in Rachel,” Edwards said.

After conducting triage, Edwards ran to Martinez, who had been dragged out of the pond, and began breathing for her with a breathing bag. Edwards continued to breathe for Martinez until she was dropped off at the hospital. Martinez died the next morning.

The two students who chased down Townsend’s truck after he hit students and crashed into other vehicles testified that when they approached the vehicle, Townsend was “fiddling with the keys” trying to start the car to drive away.

MHS senior Evan Biedermann opened the driver’s side door, where Townsend was trying to start the car, and senior Dillon Erven reached in to grab the keys from the ignition. Erven threw Townsend’s keys down the street, the students testified.

On Tuesday, the first police officer on the scene, Sgt. David Grant with the MPD, testified about the field sobriety tests he conducted on Townsend.

Grant said he could smell alcohol on Townsend, and decided to conduct the test.

The field sobriety test, Grant said, is not a pass/fail test. Instead, it’s meant to give officers “clues” as to whether or not the person might be inebriated.

On the nystagmus test, a test that looks for a “jolt” in the eye that occurs whenever someone is intoxicated, Townsend showed six of the six potential clues for someone who might be inebriated, Grant said.

Blood tests from the hospital show that Townsend’s blood alcohol content level was .06, which is below the legal limit of .08.

Those same blood tests showed Townsend had traces of THC in his system. On arrival to the Cleveland County Detention Center, Townsend told the nurse conducting his intake report that he had “used marijuana the day before” the hit-and-run, and that he had “drank the day of the crash.”

The court also heard from a highway patrol officer who testified about Townsend’s 2013 arrest for driving while intoxicated, when he crashed his car on the side of the road and was found walking home.

Townsend was not convicted of any charges stemming from the 2013 arrest.

Defense’s argument

The defense argues that Townsend choked on a sip of Red Bull and then passed out, causing him to lose control of his truck.

In Grant’s body camera footage, Townsend can be heard repeatedly claiming that he choked.

“I just lost my son last night,” Townsend said on the body cam footage. “I was just going to his house when I started choking.”

Donna Hanson of Turnkey Health — the medical provider at the Cleveland County Detention Center — said that according to intake reports, Townsend never mentioned choking or passing out when asked. He never visited the medical unit with complaints of choking or passing out when incarcerated at the detention center, she said.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Reese Gorman covers COVID-19, local politics and elections for The Transcript; reach him at rgorman@normantranscript.com or @reeseg_3.

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