Max Townsend, 58, is charged with second degree murder and six counts of failure to stop and render aid following deadly hit-and-run crash as he crashed into a group of high school runners in Moore, Oklahoma
An Oklahoma driver accused of killing three high school runners when he hit them with his truck now claims he passed out behind the wheel after choking on Red Bull.
Max Townsend, 58, is charged with three counts of second degree murder and six counts of failure to stop and render aid following a deadly hit-and-run crash into a group of high school runners in Moore, Oklahoma.
Closing arguments were heard in his murder trial Friday.
His defense claimed his story about choking on Red Bull is plausible, according to KOCO.
But prosecutors say there are four people who say Townsend was awake and alert behind the wheel when he ran into the seven teens, the site reports.
The unidentified expert witness who was testifying that it was possible that Townsend could have choked on Red Bull seemed surprised when he was told of the witnesses, KOCO reported.
‘Well, why didn’t anyone tell me that?’ he said of the witnesses who say they saw Townsend awake.
Townsend’s sister also testified on Thursday, before closing arguments.
She said Townsend told her a few minutes before the crash that he felt funny, KOCO reported, and thought that he perhaps should be driving.
She didn’t mention this to a detective during the investigation, according to the report.
Max Townsend claimed he passed out behind the wheel when he choked up on Red Bull before running over the group of Moore High School runners in February of 2020
Emergency crews respond to a scene where a vehicle driven by Max Townsend hit several Moore High School students in Moore, Okla
Max Townsend slammed his vehicle into the high school cross-country team as they were running along a street outside their suburban Oklahoma City school
Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18, were killed when Max Leroy Townsend, 58, plowed into them while they were out running after their school was over
The crashed happened on February 3 in 2020 a day after Townsend had lost his 29-year-old son, Cody Townsend, in a separate fatal accident when the son’s car flipped over and he was killed.
In the older Townsend’s accident, two teenage girls from Moore were killed at the scene and a teenage boy died later after they were slammed into by his truck.
Four classmates also were injured when Townsend slammed his vehicle into a high school cross-country team after their school was over.
Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18, were killed after the suspect lost control of his car and ran into sidewalk hitting them while they were out on a cross-country run.
After the crash, witnesses followed Townsend’s truck. He stopped after hitting another car, and a high school student who had been pursuing him took away his keys.
Martinez and Freeman were killed at the scene, while Crum died a week later in hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.
Three other teenagers – Joseph White, Shiloh Hutchison and Ashton Baza – were also seriously hurt in the incident.
The day before that crash, Townsend’s 29-year-old son, Cody, was killed in a multi-vehicle accident less than a mile away.
Townsend killed high school students in a crash one day after his own son, Cody Townsend, 29, died in a fatal rollover accident
Cody Townsend and Max Townsend are seen posing for a photo during a motorcycle ride
At the time, local reports claimed that Townsend may have been drunk and distraught over the death of his son.
However, a DUI charge was dismissed after a toxicology test failed to show that Townsend was above the legal limit of .08 blood-alcohol content.
Townsend previously pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the case before District Attorney Greg Mashburn upgraded the charges this month to second-degree murder.
‘He had extreme disregard for human life,’ Mashburn recently told the Associated Press.
‘I don’t think he cared who or what he hit.’
Townsend is additionally facing charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
Police say Townsend was driving nearly 80 mph in a 25 mph zone when he crossed two lanes of traffic onto a sidewalk and crashed into the group of cross-country runners.
After striking the students on the sidewalk, Townsend again cut across the traffic lanes and a yard, hitting more vehicles, according to the accident report.
A witness pursued Townsend for three blocks before stopping him, and police took him into custody.
Moore Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis compared the crash scene with the carnage left by devastating tornadoes that have hit the city. One in 2013 claimed 24 lives, including seven at an elementary school.
‘It’s awful,’ Sergeant Lewis said. ‘We’ve dealt with some really tough things, but that’s the worst, even the tornadoes. Seeing those kids laying there.’
Yuridia Martinez, who died in the crash, was described as a friendly teenage girl who enjoyed watching movies and baking, according to News 9.
Her family told the station: ‘We were blessed for 16 years with an amazing baby girl who filled our home and our lives with joy and fun and beauty.
‘Yuridia had a heart for service and helping people in need. She loved her friends and adored her sisters. This is so difficult. We miss her very much. Please continue to pray for us, for Yuridia and for the children and families suffering this loss.’
Meanwhile, fellow victims Rachel Freeman and Kolby Crum were both accomplished runners who had participated in the local Moore War Run.
Michael Freeman, the father of Rachel, wrote an emotional Facebook post: ‘One week ago today, Max Townsend killed my daughter. Max. Townsend. Killed. My. Daughter. It seems strange even saying it. At times it still doesn’t seem real.
He continued: ‘Some have asked what my feelings are toward Townsend. I can honestly say I’ve spent very little time thinking about him, his condition, or his motives at the time.
‘Rejoice in Peace, Rachel. You’re not gone, just gone away.’
Townsend has a lengthy criminal record dating back to at least 1991, which includes convictions on charges of child abuse, possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance.
Additional charges listed on his rap sheet include DUI, drug trafficking and marijuana possession.