FULTON COUNTY — Testimony from the probable cause hearing reveals more information of the accident that resulted in the death of three local students and seriously injured another.
The hearing was held at the Fulton County Courthouse shortly before 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
The first witness to testify was Indiana State Police Detective Josh Maller. Maller stated that he responded to what he believed to be a “pretty bad wreck” on SR 25 around 8:30. He described that there was a school bus on the road, with a Toyota truck facing the opposite direction. He believed that the truck had passed the bus by a “couple hundred yards.”
He continued to testify that he witnessed three deceased children, Xzavier and Mason Ingle, both 6, and their sister, Alivia Stahl, 9, at the scene. He also was aware of a fourth child, Maverik Lowe, 11, who was no longer at the scene when he arrived. Lowe had been transported by air ambulance.
“The truck, it was obvious that there was a considerable amount of damage on it,” testified Maller. He stated that a search warrant was obtained for a telephone to discover that the initial 911 call occurred around 7:17 a.m., shortly after the accident occurred.
Maller then explained to the court that a father was able to identify the children and that another officer had identified the driver as Alyssa Shepherd, 24, Rochester.
That was all the testimony provided by Maller to the court.
The state then called Indiana State Police Detective Michelle Jumper to testify. Jumper was the officer who conducted interviews with Shepherd, the bus driver and a driver behind Shepherd’s vehicle.
Jumper first described her interview with the bus driver, Robert Reid. Reid told Jumper that he had driven that route for a couple of years. When he approached the trailer court, he stopped, put out his stop arm, activated his lights and looked for vehicles. He did notice one vehicle off in the distance.
“He didn’t have any reason to believe they wouldn’t stop, he described them as pretty far away,” said Jumper. Jumper said he then waved the kids on to cross the street and realized the vehicle was not stopping. “He said at the last second he hit his horn, but there was nothing he could do.” She described the bus driver as being, “pretty distraught.”
Jumper then gave testimony regarding her interview with the driver who was directly behind Sheperd’s vehicle. The female driver told Jumper that she believes they were traveling at around 45 mph before the incident.
“She came around the corner and could tell there was a bus stopped with all of its lights activated. She said that she started to slow down and realized the car in front of her, or the truck in front of her, was not slowing down,” recalled Jumper. “She said that the truck’s headlights illuminated the children as they were crossing the road. And she said she started to freak out because she realized, ‘I’m slowing down but the truck in front of me is not slowing down and not stopping.'”
The judge then clarified with Jumper that the driver could clearly see the bus lights. Jumper testified that the driver was able to clearly see the lights and even described the flashing white, red and yellow lights on the bus.
Jumper then spoke about her interview with Shepherd. Shepherd told Jumper that she was driving from Talma to Rochester to drop off her younger brother. She further told Jumper that she is typically a slow driver.
“She said that she came around that corner, she saw that there was something with lights. She just knew it was something big that had lights, she did not recognize it immediately as a school bus. In fact, she said she was trying to figure out what it was. she knows she dimmed her headlights for it but she couldn’t make out what it was and by the time she realized … the kids were right there in front of her,” said Jumper.
The judge then asked again if any other witnesses confirmed that the school bus lights were activated. Jumper stated that the driver behind Shepherd, the school bus driver and a driver behind the school bus all confirmed the school bus’ lights were on.
The judge then declared that he found probable cause for three charges of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor charge for passing a school bus, with the stop arm extended, causing injury.
The judge set her bond at $15,000 surety, stating, “We don’t have anything to indicate she’s a flight risk now, that I know of.”
This concluded the probable cause hearing, which lasted for 17 minutes.
Shepherd has since bonded out of jail. She has a court date set for Nov. 13.