ROCHESTER — An appeal filed for a Fulton County woman convicted of striking and killing three kids and injuring a fourth while they were crossing a state highway to get on a school bus says the convictions should be dropped.
Alyssa Shepherd, 25, was convicted of three counts of reckless homicide, recklessly passing a school bus, and criminal recklessness. In December, a judge sentenced her to four years in the Indiana Department of Correction, three years of home detention, and three years of probation
The charges stem after she struck and killed three siblings — Alivia Stahl, 9, and her twin brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle, 6, and injured Maverick Lowe, 11, while they were getting on a school bus in October 2018.
The appeal, filed May 5 by Stacy R. Uliana, an attorney in Bargersville, argues four things: sufficiency, instruction, double jeopardy, and license suspension.
The brief says the state "failed to present sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that Shepherd acted recklessly."
Shepherd was not distracted, unreasonably speeding, drinking, or using drugs, when she struck the kids, according to the brief.
She thought the bright lights on the road ahead were from an oversize load, like farm equipment, according to the brief.
"The fact that her error killed three siblings and forever scarred another little boy is tragic almost beyond imaginable for parent, but it does not change the fact it was still an accident," the appeal read. "Because there was insufficient evidence of reckless conduct, Shepherd’s convictions for Counts I—V must be vacated."
The court also failed to tell the jury lack of attention or a judgment error isn't considered reckless and doesn't support the charges of reckless homicide, according to the brief.
Shepherd's attorney says the criminal recklessness and recklessly passing a school bus charges are double jeopardy because they were filed on the same act and caused the same amount of harm to the victim. The appeal states either the criminal recklessness or recklessly passing a school bus conviction should be dismissed.
"Because there is reasonable probability that the jury used the same evidence of Shepherd driving past the bus to support both convictions, the conviction and sentence for Count must be vacated," the appeal read.
The consecutive suspensions of Shepherd's license are illegal because they were all stemming from one criminal incident, according to the brief.
A notice of appeal was filed in January, according to online court records.
Shepherd is currently serving her sentence at the Rockville Correctional Facility, according to online offender data. Her earliest possible release date is September 17, 2022.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the incident says the school district, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, and Shepherd, share blame in the crash.
MAX Strong, an organization dedicated to remembering the children and working to make school buses safer, issued a statement from the Ingle family in response to the appeal.
"Obviously the appeal to us represents another way that Alyssa Shepherd continues to refuse to accept responsibility and fails to show any remorse for her actions. We had our kids stolen from us, without a choice or a chance. No questions asked and no second chances," the statement read. "Our kids didn’t get a chance that day because she took it all from them. She was not distracted and she consciously made those choices.She has never accepted what she did to our beautiful children, our family, and to Maverik and his family. She’s always been concerned about herself and what’s best for her. Which is mind blowing to all of us."
You can read their full statement in the post below.
Uliana provided the following statement to RTV6:
“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.”