Max Townsend will stand trial for a Feb. 3 incident that killed three Moore high school students and injured several others, a Cleveland County judge ruled Friday.
Townsend appeared at the Cleveland County Courthouse Friday for his preliminary hearing and was told he is is facing 10 felony counts, including three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of an accident of a fatality and six counts of leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
Townsend, 57, of Tuttle, was originally charged with 11 felony counts, but Cleveland County Special Judge Steve Stice dropped one charge during Friday's hearing.
Townsend was arrested on Feb. 7 for allegedly crashing into several cross country runners near Moore High School. The crash killed Rachel Freeman, 18, Kolby Crum, 18, and Yuridia Martinez, 16.
Defense attorney Kevin Butler argued Friday that Townsend's charges should be reduced. He said that the 10 charges of leaving the scene of an accident should be reduced to two. Butler said it was unfair to add a felony count for each student involved in the incident because state statues do not specify how these charges are counted. However, Stice overruled Butler's objections.
The courtroom was packed for the nearly nine-hour hearing, as six students involved in the Feb. 3 incident testified about their eye-witness accounts.
The students said that they gathered at a stop sign on East Main Street around 3:30 p.m. near the high school for their daily 10-minute run to Bryant Elementary School.
Joseph White, who was a senior at MHS, said that he was at the front of the group of runners along with Freeman, his girlfriend of two years.
Shortly after the run began, several students testified that White saw Townsend's red truck driving towards them and yelled to warn the other runners.
Moore police officer James White testified that Townsend's vehicle struck a parked white Jeep on the other side of the street before driving across lanes of traffic and striking the runners. James White said that the police investigation showed that Townsend's vehicle was traveling around 77 mph before striking the students.
Joseph White, who suffered broken bones and a severe concussion, said he barely remembers anything that happened after seeing Townsend's car heading toward them.
According to police reports, Townsend continued driving before crashing into a pole a few blocks away from the scene.
Evan Bittermann, MHS student, testified that he and a friend were driving on East Main Street before seeing Townsend's vehicle heading toward them in his left rearview mirror. Bittermann testified that he drove his car into the yard of a nearby house to avoid being hit by Townsend.
After Townsend struck the students, Bittermann said he and his friend pursued Townsend on foot before finding him a few blocks away. When they found Townsend in his vehicle, Bittermann said that he appeared to be trying to start his car. Bitterman said they took his keys from him and threw them down the street before telling him he wasn't allowed to leave.
Bittermann said Townsend was crying and expressed his sadness regarding the death of his son, Cody. Cody, 28, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 2.
Bittermann said Townsend eventually asked him about what he had just done, and Bittermann said he told him that he had just injured several students. Bittermann said Townsend continued to cry but did not ask to leave.
If convicted, Townsend faces up to life in prison.
Stice said Townsend's next court appearance will be a formal arraignment that is to be scheduled within 30 days of Friday's hearing.