Jury selection to begin for Oklahoma man in students’ deaths

Mid-South

FILE – This Feb. 3, 2020, file photo from the Cleveland County (Oklahoma) Sheriff’s Office shows Max Leroy Townsend. Jury selection is set to begin in the case of Townsend, charged with murder for crashing his pickup truck into a group of high school cross country runners, killing three and injuring five. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said jury selection will begin Tuesday, June 14, 2021, in the trial of Townsend. (Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The second-degree murder trial of an Oklahoma man accused of crashing his pickup truck into a group of high school cross country runners, killing three and injuring five, is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said jury selection will start in the trial of 58-year-old Max Leroy Townsend. Townsend, of Tuttle, is facing three counts of second-degree murder and multiple counts of fleeing the scene of an accident. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

The February 2020 crash in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore killed 16-year-old Yuridia Martinez, 17-year-old Rachel Freeman and 18-year-old Kolby Crum.

Townsend has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney, Kevin Butler, has said he hopes jurors selected for the trial will keep an open mind.

Police say Townsend was driving nearly 80 mph (129 kph) in a 25 mph (40 kph) zone, crossed two lanes of traffic, veered onto a sidewalk and crashed into the runners outside of Moore High School.

The day before the crash, Townsend’s 29-year-old son was killed in a multi-vehicle accident in Moore.

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