Max Townsend

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

Max Townsend, who killed three Moore High School students during a hit and run in February 2020, is set to be sentenced on Thursday.

Back in June, a Cleveland County jury found Townsend guilty of three counts murder in the second degree, 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 of Moore Hugh School.

During the trial, Townsend’s attempted defense was that he choked on a sip of Red Bull and passed out while driving his truck, causing him to lose control and run over a group of MHS cross country runners participating in their daily cool-down run. Townsend killed runners Yuridia Martinez, Kolby Crum and Rachel Freeman in the crash.

The trial was an emotional and brutal one for the families. The state showed video footage of Townsend hitting the kids and then driving away. The jury also had to hear stories recounted by the survivors of the hit-and-run who were left with lasting physical injuries and emotional trauma.

Following the verdict, the families expressed how they were relieved that they could finally feel a sense of justice for the traumatic deaths they had all experienced.

“I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Tansey Hellbusch, mother of Kolby Crum, following the guilty verdict. “I’m still sad I don’t have my son, but this is such a relief that we can close this chapter and we can continue to remember our son and not have to think about this; now we can put this behind us, so it’s a huge burden off our shoulders.”

District Attorney Greg Mashburn commended the jury following the verdict and said he was glad the man who killed three kids was brought to justice.

“We’re just grateful for the jurors who came in and gave their time and attention to this case,” Mashburn said after the verdict. “It was hard evidence for them to have to listen to over the last two weeks. As a parent myself, just knowing the heaviness and what they were having to watch and see, especially for people who don’t see this all the time, I just appreciate them devoting their time and attention and delivering a true and just verdict in this case.”

The jury recommended Townsend spend life in prison and District Judge Lori Walkley is set to decide his final sentence Thursday at 2 p.m. in her courtroom.

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

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