NORMAN — Jurors and families witnessed, via graphic videos and photos shown Thursday, the impact and immediate aftermath of the hit-and-run collision that left three Moore High School runners dead and three others seriously injured last year.
Max Townsend, 58, is charged with with three counts of second degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a fatality and four counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury in the Feb. 3, 2020 hit-and-run outside Moore High School.
Prosecutors spent nearly 20 minutes Thursday morning showing body camera footage from Officer Zachary Grismer, who was one of the first Moore Police Department officers at the scene of the crash after students and onlookers called 911.
The footage primarily shows Kolby Crum suffering from a noticeable head injury, though other students are visible and audible as first responders attend to them. Crum, then a senior, died after nearly two weeks in the hospital, while classmate Rachel Freeman died at the scene and sophomore Yuridia Martinez died the morning after the crash.
In the audience Thursday, families quietly cried watching Crum and other students groan and scream in pain. Moore Public Schools leaders have previously said that even after Crum was hit and severely injured — in the footage, the senior’s head lies in a puddle of blood — he told students at the scene who were attempting to administer CPR that they should focus on other victims first.
Joseph White, an MHS senior at the time of the crash who is visible at the end of Grismer’s body cam footage, testified Thursday about the extensive injuries he suffered in the wake of the crash. White and fellow runners Ashton Baza and Shiloh Hutchinson were the three injured athletes who survived the crash.
White, who stayed in the hospital for a week after the crash, had been dating Rachel Freeman for two years at the time of the hit-and-run; he and Crum regularly ran together during practice, able to match one another’s pace at the head of the pack.
White, who looked directly at Townsend during much of his testimony, said he blacked out after he was hit, and came to in the middle of the road to find a friend holding his hand and a teacher holding his legs. He was left to recover from a concussion, a mild brain bleed, a gash along the top of his skull that required staples, breaks in his knees and serious road rash covering much of his body.
While he runs at college now, White said recovery from all his injuries was a long road; when he attended Freeman’s funeral, he arrived in a wheelchair, still unable to walk.
The state also called two witnesses who said they watched Townsend drive through the group of MHS runners. Both were leaving the MHS parking lot when Townsend sped down Main Street and swerved into the wrong lane. While one was able to swerve out of the way in her SUV, Townsend clipped the other woman’s Jeep before he hit the runners.
Both women cried recounting how they watched — one from her rearview mirror and one head-on after pulling a U-turn — as he continued speeding into the runners and drove off. While Townsend’s attorney said Wednesday that Townsend swerved into the wrong lane and hit the six students after going unconscious, both witnesses said Townsend appeared alert and awake at the wheel when he swerved into their lane and into the students.
Both said they did not get enough of a look at Townsend to identify specific facial features. Their testimony was reinforced by the final witness of the day, Melany Alba; all three women said they saw Townsend’s face looking alert and in control.
Alba told the jury she saw Townsend’s hands on “10 and 2” on the steering wheel and that he was “sitting up straight” during the time of the hit and run.
One witness, Dustin Horstkoetter, director of safety and security at Moore Public Schools, helped the MPD obtain security camera footage of the crash. The footage was shown in court Thursday.
The footage shows Townsend’s red truck driving into the group of MHS students, who are running next to a pond. Almost immediately, splashes are visible in the pond as the truck throws students into the water on impact.
Audible gasps and tears could be heard throughout the courtroom as families watched their kids’ last moments.
Horstkoetter described the scene as almost something out of a movie. He arrived shortly after the crash as the “dust was still settling and there were bodies everywhere,” he said Thursday.
One of those bodies was Hutchinson, a then-16-year-old junior who was a dedicated runner with hopes of running in college. When Townsend hit Hutchinson, the impact threw her over a retaining wall and into the dirt; the force made her lose her right shoe and sock, she testified Thursday.
“I was trying to get up, and then I looked down, and when you see your foot the other way you kind of realize something’s not right,” she said.
Hutchinson was rushed to the hospital, where she had surgery on her ankle and arm that left lasting effects. She has scars from where the truck hit her, permanent nerve damage on the right side of her body, two rods with multiple screws in her arm and two 6-inch screws in her ankle.
Hutchinson recovered and was able to start running competitively again thanks to intense physical training, she said. In the fall, Hutchinson will attend the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond on a track and cross country scholarship.