Oklahoma man to stand trial for hit-and-run deaths, injuries of Moore High School track team members

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CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The man accused of driving onto a crowded sidewalk and killing and injuring a group of Moore High School students will stand trial.

Max Townsend will go to trial on three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality and six counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury.

Townsend was originally charged with seven counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving an injury, but the judge dropped one of the counts.

Track runners Rachel Freeman, Kolby Crum and Yuridia Martinez died from their injuries. Joseph White, Shiloh Hutchinson, Ashton Baza and Chance Marlett were also hit or injured by the Ford pickup truck.

It was an emotional day of testimony during the preliminary hearing on Friday, as three survivors and other teenage witnesses from the day recounted their experiences. One fellow runner who took the stand and a Moore police sergeant were brought to tears by the memories, along with many loved ones looking on inside the courtroom.

Townsend, wearing his orange prison garments and a mask, watched proceedings slightly slumped in his chair.

“I’ve been waiting for that day, this day. Glad it finally came,” said White.

White, Hutchinson and Baza took the stand Friday, along with another then-sophomore who was running that day.

The runners were asked for their moment-to-moment accounts of what happened.

Among the haunting images, Baza described running over to Crum and hearing some of his final words, mumbled, saying “go help the others.”

Baza saw Martinez thrown into a pond, and wading in to pull her out and keep her legs warm from the cold water.

The fellow runner saw Freeman pulled under the truck. When she tried to attend to her, Freeman was on her side, unconscious and unresponsive.

“It’s something I can’t escape,” White said. “It always follows me now.”

White, Freeman’s boyfriend, said he remembers very little past clicking on his Garmin running watch, which he said clocked him traveling over 82 mph when the truck hit him.

All he remembers of the crash is the sound of the truck revving. It’s a sound that continues to put him on edge anytime he’s outside. Now that he is finally able to run and walk again, he said he still can’t run outside.

White said Townsend wouldn’t meet his gaze in the courtroom.

“The fact that he has the nerve to hit me with the truck but not look me in the eye says a lot about him,” White said.

A witness who took the stand testified that he ran up to Townsend after he crashed the truck into another vehicle. The witness said Townsend appeared to be trying to restart the vehicle, turning the key, and that he was sobbing about the loss of his son who died the day before.

The witness said in court that he was yelling at Townsend to get out of the car, and threw Townsend’s keys into the road.

When Townsend got out of the car, the witness said he remembers him “fake choking” or coughing, before getting back in the truck.

Under the defense attorney’s cross examination, the witness said he didn’t think Townsend knew what he did, and that he told Townsend that he hit several people.

The defense attorney asked all of the witnesses to try to clarify what they remember.

He also asked whether they could remember hearing a popping sound before the truck hit the children and if any of them could remember flashing or brake lights. He also asked the witness who went up to Townsend if he remembers seeing the tires, and whether they were flat.

After the judge decided to bind over Townsend, defense attorney Kevin Butler said he hopes people will keep an open mind going into the trial.

“Mr. Townsend has pled not guilty because he is not guilty,” Butler said. “This is a horrible tragic accident, all of us on this side of the table, our hearts go out to all the families, the loved ones, these students, and it’s just a horrible thing.”

Michael Freeman said he doesn’t want to discuss the defense’s strategy, and that he’s focused on the truth, and justice for his daughter.

“We’re just praying for the truth to come out,” Freeman said.

Investigators also testified Friday evening.

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