ROCHESTER, Ind. (AP) — An appeal filed by an Indiana woman convicted in a crash that killed three children who were crossing a highway to board a school bus contends the state did not present sufficient evidence that she was criminally reckless.
A Fulton County jury convicted Alyssa Shepherd, 25, of three counts of reckless homicide, as well as criminal recklessness and passing a school bus, causing injury. A judge sentenced Shepherd in December to four years in prison for the Oct. 30, 2018, crash that killed 6-year-old twin brothers Xzavier and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, and seriously injured a fourth child.
Shepherd, who was also sentenced to three years of house arrest and three years of probation, was driving her pickup truck when she plowed into the four children as they crossed two-lane State Road 25 in Rochester to board the bus.
At the time of her arrest, Shepherd told authorities she didn’t realize that she was approaching a stopped school bus, despite the activated stop arm and flashing lights.
The state “failed to present sufficient evidence” Shepherd acted recklessly as opposed to negligently, Shepherd's attorney wrote in a brief filed with the Indiana Court of Appeals on May 5. Because Shepherd was not drinking, texting or otherwise distracted, the brief says, her actions were “an error in judgement” not reckless homicide. The appeal says Shepherd believed the lights she saw were a farming implement or an over-sized load.
“The fact that her error killed three siblings and forever scarred another little boy is tragic almost beyond imaginable for a parent, but it does not change the fact it was still an accident,” the appeal reads, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The brief goes on to say the jury at Shepherd’s trial was not given proper instruction on the distinction between criminal recklessness and negligence and that her convictions of criminal recklessness and passing a school bus causing injury violate Indiana’s double jeopardy statutes, meaning one of the two convictions must be vacated.
Shepherd’s attorney, Stacy Uliana, issued a statement saying “Indiana law is clear that even heart-wrenchingly tragic accidents that result from a driver’s error in judgment may be the basis of a civil lawsuit but are not crimes."
“We are simply asking that the Court of Appeals fairly apply this law to Alyssa,” the statement said.