NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WILL BE UPDATED AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE THROUGHOUT THE DAY AS THE TRIAL GOES ON.
(4:30 PM) — Court was adjourned Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM. Here’s what happened throughout the rest of the day.
Following the morning recess, court was brought back into session, where four more witness accounts were head, including that of 12-year old Maverik Lowe, who was the child injured in the crash on October 30th, 2018.
Lowe stated in court that he had gone through 21 surgeries since the crash, most recently a knee replacement, but he isn’t expecting to have any more surgeries in the future. Maverik said that when he saw the lights of Alyssa Shepherd’s truck, he had two thoughts go through his head, and that was either to jump or not to avoid being struck. Maverik said then said the next thing he remembered was, “I remember waking up and rolling myself over because I couldn’t breathe.”
The bus driver from that morning testified that they recalled seeing the truck Shepherd was driving come around the corner on southbound State Road 25, and said it wasn’t slowing down. “I started honking the horn, she wasn’t stopping.”
A truck driver that was stopped behind the school bus said he thought that a drunk driver had hit the kids.
Many of the testimonies were relatively similar as far as conditions go for the morning of the crash, stating that weather was clear, just before sunrise and no fog around to hinder visibility.
In later testimonies, Indiana State Police Sergeant Jason Paige took the stand. Paige is a crime scene investigator with ISP, who says he works with multiple agencies throughout the year, and in his long tenure, may assist in 80 to 100 crimes scenes per year.
Paige said he was one who assisted in making a reconstruction video, which was shown inside the courtroom. He said that when making the video, they shut down a stretch of State Road 25. They did it on a clear night with no precipitation and attempted to reconstruct the incident as closely as possible.
Paige said he manually set a dash camera to have settings that would be “within the ballpark” of what a human eye would see. In watching the video, you can see the headlights of the school bus coming around a corner, but you don’t see the flashing lights immediately. From the time of first sight of lights to when the vehicle was passing the bus, 15 seconds had passed. Through the investigation, it was estimated that Shepherd’s truck was approaching the bus around 60 miles per hour.
After Paige spoke, Fulton County Chief Prosecutor Mike Marrs said that Paige was the last of the witnesses the State had for the day, and court was adjourned.
The trial is set to resume at 8:30 Thursday morning.
(10:45 AM) — Trial proceedings began late, around 8:50 AM. Seated first was family, then media. The jury came in a few minutes after Judge Gregory Heller. After the jury was seated, Judge Heller read off 24 different preliminary proceedings to the jury, which included the five charges against Alyssa Shepherd.
At 9:18 AM, both counsels made their remarks. First was from Fulton County Chief Prosecutor Mike Marrs, who is speaking on behalf of the State of Indiana. He says the case comes down to “one simple thing, reckless actions.” Marrs stated that evidence will show that Shepherd saw a “large object” on the road and does not attempt to slow down. He went on to say that Shepherd had at least a quarter-of-a-mile of distance on the road to where the school bus was stopped out and had the stop sign out, stop arm out and the red lights flashing, adding that she had time to react.
“Everyone else slows down and stops, but she does not. She hits and kills three children and injures a fourth, who survived, and had over 20 surgeries.”
Marrs also explained the definition of “recklessly” to the jury. “There is no justification for no reaction (for coming to a stop). Evidence will not show that she was on the phone, or that she wasn’t fidgeting with anything. It’s a Tuesday morning during the school year and there is a large object on the road. It could’ve been a farm combine, a wide load, anything.”
After Marrs’ opening statement, Shepherd’s attorney David Newman** gave his remarks to the jury. Newman called October 30th, 2018 an “unusual morning, an unusual day.” He said that Shepherd was taking her husband to work, and had her two kids in the Toyota Tacoma she was driving. He then talked about the events leading up to the incident on the highway, “The road was dark, she was driving around the speed limit, and she thought the northbound vehicle was something else. Once she saw the children, she applied the brakes, but it was too late.”
Newman went on and explained the Shepherd attempted to call 911, however there was no answer. She then proceeded to contact a friend of hers, who was a 911 dispatcher, and explained what was going on. “She simply did not know it was a school bus. There was very little lighting. Her actions were not reckless, but they were negligent.”
The first witness, Brittney Ingle, was called at 9:30 AM. She was questioned by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Arndt. One of the first questions was regarding the busing of her kids. Ingle stated that in 2017, she had driven her kids to Mentone Elementary and Tippecanoe Valley Middle School, but because of the distance, she decided to have them take the bus in 2018.
Arndt asked Brittney Ingle to describe the morning of the incident, and she said it was a little unusual because Alivia had already been dressed and ready to go to school. “She was fully of energy because she had been out sick the past couple of days. She missed out on a project to build a candy bridge, but a couple of her friends planned on staying in from recess to work on that with her.”
Ingle then described what were heard as screams at 7:12 AM, when she was in the process of grabbing a hoodie from her bedroom. She had asked her oldest daughter to watch the kids head to the school bus stop from a kitchen window, which faced the road. When Ingle ran outside, she saw Xzavier across the roadway, with Mason in her neighbors arms. While she was checking on the boys, she heard that someone found two others, one of which was Alivia, who was near the ditch of the road. When asked by Arndt of when the First Responders arrived, she couldn’t give a specific time, but said it felt like “forever” as she was going back and forth between all of her children.
Detective Sergeant Travis Heishman of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department was the next witness to speak. Arndt asked about his involvement in the case. Heishman mentioned that he was on duty at the time and was dispatched immediately to the scene, and said that he was the first law enforcement officer to arrive. He didn’t speak on the incident itself, but mentioned that he took photos of the scene and later took an aerial photo of the area of the incident, but it was on July 23th, 2019.
The third witness was 18-year old Maggie Harding, who was the driver of the vehicle behind Shepherd’s truck. She and her 15-year old brother were heading into Rochester for school when the incident happened. Arndt asked if Harding could see the school bus coming around the corner, to which she replied that she did. She also said she saw the red lights flashing and could tell it was a bus almost immediately, and began to slow down as she approached the stop.
When asked about what she saw with Shepherd’s truck, she saw the truck hit the kids and couldn’t recall if the truck’s brake lights came on. She said her brother was crying and she was screaming when they saw it. She said that she stopped and did not move her vehicle for “awhile.”
On the cross examination, Newman asked if she was surprised to see a bus to be stopped where it was. Harding said it seemed a little earlier than usual, but she was not surprised that the bus was out.
After Harding spoke, the court went on their first short recess and was back in court at 10:20 AM. During the second session, more witness accounts were expected to take to the stand. They will take a lunch recess around 12:30 PM before continuing.
** News Now Warsaw corrected the speaking defense attorney after posting the incorrect name.
(7:40 AM) — The trial for Alyssa Shepherd begins this morning at 8:30 AM in Rochester.
The 24-year old woman from Rochester is facing three felony counts of reckless homicide, a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus with its safety arm extended, and a charge for criminal recklessness. She faces a maximum sentence of 21.5 years if convicted on all charges.
Twelve jurors were selected out of a pool of 130 throughout the day on Tuesday, with two alternates.