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Man convicted of driving into student runners in Oklahoma

June 26, 2021 GMT
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FILE - In this June 15, 2021 file photo, Max Leroy Townsend, charged with second degree murder for crashing his pickup truck into a group of high school cross country runners, killing three and injuring five, is escorted out of the courtroom during a break for lunch during jury selection for his trial in Norman, Okla. Cleveland County jurors on Friday, June 25, found Townsend guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. The 58-year-old was also found guilty of three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and four counts of leaving the scene of an injury accident.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
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FILE - In this June 15, 2021 file photo, Max Leroy Townsend, charged with second degree murder for crashing his pickup truck into a group of high school cross country runners, killing three and injuring five, is escorted out of the courtroom during a break for lunch during jury selection for his trial in Norman, Okla. Cleveland County jurors on Friday, June 25, found Townsend guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. The 58-year-old was also found guilty of three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and four counts of leaving the scene of an injury accident.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A man accused of crashing into an Oklahoma high school cross-country team, killing three and injuring several others, has been found guilty of murder.

Cleveland County jurors on Friday found Max Townsend, 58, guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. He was also found guilty of three counts of leaving the scene of a fatality accident and four counts of leaving the scene of an injury accident.

Prosecutors said Townsend accelerated his pickup truck to 77 mph (124 kph) before crashing into the runners from Moore High School in suburban Oklahoma City in February 2020.

Authorities have said the truck crossed two lanes of traffic, veered onto a sidewalk and crashed into the runners.

Jurors chose a life sentence as the punishment on each count of second degree murder, 10 years for each count related to leaving the scene of a fatality accident and two years for each injury hit and run offense.

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Formal sentencing is set for Aug. 19.

Townsend’s attorney said he lost consciousness before the crash after choking on an energy drink. His 29-year-old son had been killed the day before in an auto accident.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Austin said Townsend was angry with his life after the death of his son.

’He didn’t care. He did not care,” Austin said. “That’s obvious from his actions.”

Rachel Freeman, 17, Yuridia Martinez, 16, and Kolby Crum, 18, were killed in the crash.