INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a Fulton County woman, found guilty of killing three children she hit with her truck at a school bus stop in 2018.
The court issued its decision Tuesday, confirming the conviction of Alyssa Leigh Shepherd on three counts of Level 5 felony reckless homicide and one count of Level 6 felony criminal recklessness while armed with a deadly weapon.
The appellate court did vacate a misdemeanor reckless driving guilty finding because it duplicated her conviction on criminal recklessness, resulting in a violation of double jeopardy, and the state agreed about dropping that conviction.
However, the dropped misdemeanor will not affect Shepherd’s 10-year total sentence, according to a statement from the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
The appellate court also sent the decision on suspension of Shepherd’s license back to the trial court in Fulton County for it to review.
Attorney General Curtis Hill issued a statement on the decision.
“We understand that no court ruling will fully soothe the pain felt by those who loved these precious children, but we hope this decision assists in healing their aching hearts,” Hill stated.
A jury had found Shepherd guilty of the charges on Oct. 18 after a four-day trial.
The accident happened Oct. 30, 2018, on Indiana 25, killing Alivia Stahl, 9, and her 6-year old twin half-brothers, Xzavier and Mason Ingle.
A fourth child, Maverik Lowe, then 11, was also hit and required 21 surgeries, according to Tuesday’s decision.
The convictions were because Shepherd didn’t stop for a school bus as it was picking the children up outside of Meiser mobile home park just outside Rochester.
The children were crossing the highway’s southbound lane about 7:15 a.m. when Shepherd’s truck hit them.
Shepherd was driving her younger brother to school in the southbound lane and also had her two toddlers in the truck, according to court records.
The appellate decision stated that the day was dark but clear, and Shepherd was driving about 58 mph in a 55 mph zone.
She passed a sign warning of a curve ahead, which was just before the stop, and passed a “watch for school bus” sign.
Shepherd testified she saw the lights in the oncoming lane and thought it was a wide load vehicle or tractor.
The written decision to uphold her convictions stated that the vehicle behind her recognized it as a school bus and stopped, and a box truck behind the bus was stopped.
Her truck’s collision recording data showed Shepherd didn’t decrease her speed and used the brakes 1.3 to 0.8 seconds before the collision.
Shepherd’s attorney filed two appeals on her convictions.
The first was that the state failed to show she made a conscious effort to pass a school bus and did not show she acted recklessly beyond a reasonable doubt.
The appellate court ruled that she made “a substantial deviation from acceptable driving conduct.”
The second was that the court rejected a proposal by Shepherd’s defense for instructions to the jury on what evidence would support recklessness.
The instruction would’ve told the jury that such things as lack of attention, inadvertence and forgetfulness don’t support recklessness, but the appellate court noted that she wasn’t looking at the radio or cellphone but talking to her brother about what was in the road ahead.