ROCHESTER — After three hours of deliberation, a jury found Alyssa Shepherd guilty on all five counts in the fatal bus stop accident that killed three children.
The case gained widespread attention, led to changes in state law aimed at protecting children and cast attention on motorists who disregard buses that are stopped to pick up youngsters.
Family and supporters who spoke after the verdict said they hope the case sends a signal.
“This is just a big relief for all of us,” said Brittany Ingle, the children’s mother.
“I want everyone to know that when you get behind the wheel, you are held accountable for your vehicle. You need to pay attention,” Ingle said.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Shepherd was driving a Toyota Tacoma and struck four children, killing three after she disregarded a school bus that had stopped to pick up children on SR 25, north of Rochester. Six-year-old twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle; and their sister, nine-year-old Alivia Stahl, died at the scene. Twelve-year-old Maverik Lowe was severely injured in the accident.
Shepherd, 25, of Rochester, testified earlier in the day, telling jurors she did not recognize the stopped vehicle was a bus in the pre-dawn seconds before the pickup she was driving struck the children.
By early Friday evening, nine officers stood in the Fulton County Superior Court as family members of the children who passed away and the Shepherd family, sat and waited for the verdict.
The jury found Shepherd guilty of three charges of reckless homicide, all level 5 felonies; and criminal recklessness, a level 6 felony.; passing a school bus while the stop arm is extended, causing bodily injury; a class A misdemeanor;
Sentencing was set for Dec. 18. She faces up to 21 years in prison.
Shepherd was not remanded into custody after the trial ended and will remain out on bail until sentencing.
After the verdict, family members of the children and Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs addressed the media.
“We were going to accept the verdict no matter what it was,” said Michael Stahl, Alivia Stahl’s father.
“But this does bring a little closure with everything. My heart breaks for Alyssa’s family very much and I feel for them. Hopefully, this will set a precedent locally for us and the state of Indiana that our society is not going to tolerate individuals passing school buses that are stopped with their stop arms out, lights on, while kids try to get on the bus. This shows that this type of recklessness will not be tolerated in any form.”
Stahl said he didn’t feel bad for Shepherd but said he was grateful that she gets to spend a little more time with her own children.
“I really don’t feel bad for Alyssa because she blatantly drove a vehicle and disregarded a notification that there was a bus stop ahead, disregarded the flashing lights,” said Stahl. “Common sense tells us we slow. So even if she may not have seen it entirely, common sense says we slow.”
In addition to Brittany Ingle, others who spoke included Shane Ingle, the twins’ father and Alivia’s step-father; and Michael Schwab, the children’s grandfather, also spoke to the media after the trial.
“This is all about holding her accountable,” said Shane. “There’s no reason why you don’t slow down for a bus, or red flashing lights. You should know what that means. Even our six-year-old sons knew what that meant.”
Brittany recalled giving her testimony and making eye contact with Shepherd while doing so.
“As a mother, when I was sitting up there, I looked her straight in the eyes and there was no emotion,” said Brittany. “She gave nothing. I was crying telling them how I found my sons in the road and she had no remorse. That hurt worse because she’s a mother herself. I have no remorse for her.”
“There’s still a long way to go,” said Schwab. “This is going to go a long step into doing an important thing and helping write legislation. There are still more things that we’d like to do yet. I still think that it’s insane that somebody can have such an accident and not have their license immediately suspended. I just think there’s some other changes and ideas that we have to continue to improve school bus safety.”