Okla. Man Convicted of Murder for Running Over 3 High School Cross Country Runners with Truck
“They were great, all-American kids,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn tells PEOPLE. “Wonderful student athletes. They had bright futures ahead of them”
An Oklahoma man was found guilty Friday in the deaths of three high school students who were hit from behind while they were running.
Max Leroy Townsend, 58, was accused in the second-degree murders of high school students Rachel Freeman, 17, Yuridia Martinez, 16, and Kolby Crum, 18.
"They were great, all-American kids," Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn tells PEOPLE. "Wonderful student athletes. They had bright futures ahead of them."
Townsend was also found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and leaving the scene of an injury accident.
Mashburn says Townsend was driving his truck past Moore High School in February of 2020 when "he accelerated to about 77 miles an hour, glanced off of one car, went up onto the sidewalk and mowed through a group of high school runners."
The students, he says, had just started their group jog and were jogging away from the school when Townsend came up behind them, killing three of the students and injuring four others.
Townsend allegedly continued driving until he crashed his truck nearby.
"He was caught by a couple of other high school students," says Mashburn. "He was still trying to start his car and get it going and keep going but the fuel valve had shut off so the engine wasn't getting fuel anymore."
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Townsend was angry because his 28-year-old son died in a car accident the day earlier, the Oklahoman reports.
"The only thing that makes sense is Max Townsend wasn't controlling that truck at all," Townsend's defense attorney Kevin Butler said in court, according to the Oklahoman.
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The Oklahoman reports that Townsend told a police officer and a doctor he lost consciousness after choking on a Red Bull.
Mashburn says his story was a lie.
"We had witnesses that saw him sitting straight up in his truck with both hands on the steering wheel," he says. "We have him on camera sitting straight up in the truck."
Townsend's lawyer couldn't be reached for comment.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 19, the Associated Press reports.