ROCHESTER — Alyssa Shepherd, the 25-year-old Rochester motorist who struck four children, killing three of them at a bus stop on SR 25 last year, will serve up to four years in prison.
Shepherd’s sentence was delivered Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 18, after the court heard a series of victim statements and a short address from Shepherd.
Shepherd could have faced up to 21 years in prison.
The mother of the three victims, Brittany Ingle, perhaps distraught over the sentence, was taken into custody shortly after the sentencing, but exactly why remained unclear because the media had already left the courtroom.
In total, Shepherd will serve four years in prison, three years in community corrections or home detention and three years on formal probation.
Shepherd’s driver’s license was also suspended for 10 years.
For each count of reckless homicide, a level 5 felony, Shepherd received a three-year sentence, with one year served in prison, one year served through the Fulton County community corrections or home detention program, and one year suspended on formal probation. Each count will be served consecutively.
Shepherd’s fourth and fifth charges – criminal recklessness and passing a school bus with its stop arm extended causing injury – will be served concurrently with a one-year prison sentence.
On Oct. 30, 2018, Shepherd was driving a Toyota Tacoma and struck the children after she disregarded a school bus that had stopped to pick up students along SR 25, just 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.
Defense attorney Michael Tuszynski called three people to deliver statements on behalf of Shepherd. The first to speak was Neil Shepherd, Alyssa’s husband.
“She’s a hard worker, kind, loving, and is always putting others first,” Neil said. “We have two kids together. I really wish I could trade places with her. I see her break daily and try to comfort her every single night. I know she is sad and will continue to be sad and anguish the rest of her life. The hardest thing was seeing our children and my wife say goodbye today, not knowing if they’ll see each other tonight.”
Shalena Rude, Alyssa Shepherd’s friend, was the next to deliver a statement. She said she’s known Shepherd for seven years through their church, Faith Outreach Center.
“On the day this happened, there was no doubt I needed to be there for her,” said Rude. “I didn’t recognize this Alyssa. I’ve never watched someone go in and out of shock before. She had this million-mile stare and was going in and out of hysterics.”
Rude said her own daughter views Shepherd like a second mom.
“Being close to Alyssa shows me what loving Jesus is like,” said Rude. “To know Alyssa is to know joy. Removing her from the community is like taking your best soldier off the front line.”
The final statement delivered on behalf of Shepherd was from Daniel Muntt, a former pastor at Faith Outreach Center.
“Alyssa is respectful, kind and caring,” Muntt said. “I’ve always used her as an example of how one should live. This accident was very tragic and has truly changed Alyssa’s life. It would be a major loss to have Alyssa serve her sentence away from her family.”
Brittany Ingle, the mother of Alivia, Xzavier and Mason, was the first person to take the stand and deliver a statement. She primarily focused on the result of Shepherd’s actions.
“At 17, I became a mom to Selena,” said Brittany. “My kids are and were everything to me. When Selena goes to her dad’s, it’s so empty at my home. Instead of choosing Christmas gifts, I’m choosing things for their grave blanket,” Brittany Ingle said.
She then directed her comments to Shepherd.
“Everyone here has been talking about Christianity and praying, but you didn’t pray for my kids right there at the scene. It sounds like you’re a great mom, and that’s great. You get to see your kids. You still get to talk to them. My life? My life is f****** ruined. I forever have to go to a f****** gravestone. I don’t hate Alyssa Shepherd. I hate what she did. She took so much from me. And you know if the roles were reversed, you would want time served for that.”
Michael Stahl, Alivia’s father, was the next to testify.
“She was my rock,” said Stahl about Alivia. “She cared about people that she didn’t even know. My dad has been incarcerated for my entire life. So I understand this. And you know, I feel horrible for your children and your parents. But for you? I don’t feel much of anything. If someone commits murder, we strongly hold them accountable. My daughter was nine. I have a newborn baby, and she doesn’t even get to meet her. Twenty-one and a half years is minuscule compared to what’s been taken from me.”
Shane Ingle, Mason and Xzavier’s father, spoke next, focused his comments on how proud he was to be a father.
“I had baby clothes saved away in a box before I even wanted kids,” he said. “My children made me a better person and you took that away. Selena…she struggles. She does. She went from a house with several siblings to an empty one. If I want to hear my boys’ voice, I have to listen to old videos. If I want to feel close to my kids, I have to go to a cemetery.”
Michael Schwab, the children’s grandfather, described the trio as “full of life.”
“My family is living a life sentence already because of this,” said Schwab. “Mason, Alivia and Xzavier’s lives mattered. And the community will not benefit from not holding a driver accountable for their actions.”
Sarah Dye, a Mentone Elementary School teacher, also testified. She had Alivia in her fourth-grade class and taught the twins in summer school.
“This tragedy has made such an impact,” said Dye. “Having to hold 23 students and hug them while they’re on the floor sobbing is hard. There were the questions of ‘When will she be back?’ and ‘Can I go visit her?’ Many of them had never even been to a funeral before. And now that is etched into their brains.”
Alyssa Shepherd then delivered a brief statement while in tears.
“This day will forever affect me,” said Alyssa. “My heart breaks for the lives that were lost. Every day, my heart breaks for the families. I am sorry. No apology can take that pain away. I’m just anxious, fearful and doing all I can to hold myself together.”
After Judge Gregory Heller delivered his sentencing, Tuszynski said Shepherd wished to immediately appeal his ruling. However, Heller denied the request, saying it would “not be taken into consideration today.”
Members of the media were the first to be escorted out of the courtroom afterward, with all family members of the children and Shepherd expected to shortly follow. However, after almost 10 minutes, Brittany Ingle was escorted out of the courthouse by officers and taken into custody.
Fulton County Sheriff Chris Sailors is expected to release a statement regarding the circumstances.
A restitution hearing for the case was set for Feb. 14. Shepherd was taken into custody and was taken by vehicle to the Fulton County Jail.