Despite taking the stand for her own defense, Alyssa Shepherd, 25, was found guilty Friday of all five counts in the 2018 fatal bus stop crash in Fulton County that resulted in three children being killed and a fourth being critically injured.
The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes before handing down guilty verdicts for three Level 5 felony counts of reckless homicide, one Level 6 felony count of criminal recklessness and a Class A misdemeanor of reckless driving causing serious bodily injury.
On Oct. 30, 2018, on Ind. 25 at River Park Properties mobile home court, three miles south of Talma, Shepherd struck and killed 6-year-old twins, Xzavier and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl.
Shepherd showed little reaction when hearing the verdicts, which were read aloud by Fulton Superior Court Judge Greg Heller. The jury was polled and all 12 members indicated agreement.
Shepherd’s sentencing was slated for 1 p.m. Dec. 18. At the request of her attorneys, Heller ordered a pre-sentence investigation and granted a waiver allowing her to be sentenced outside of a 30-day window.
She was not taken into custody but ordered to report to the Fulton County Probation Office at 9 a.m. Monday.
Before leaving the courtroom, the children’s mother, Brittany Ingle, and her husband, Shane, the father of Xzavier and Mason, hugged Fulton County Prosecutor Mike Marrs and Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Arndt, who represented the state throughout the emotional trial. Arndt wiped tears from her cheeks after the embrace.
“We’re extremely happy with the verdict,” Brittany said. “She needs to be held accountable for her actions.”
She added her family may never feel closure but the verdicts may help with the healing process.
Shepherd’s testimony began with biographical information. A 2013 graduate of Rochester High School, she is the part-time children’s ministry director of Faith Outreach Center and the mother of two children, a 3-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
Shepherd testified early in the day, repeating what her stepbrother Jason “Ace” Hudkins told the court Thursday — she saw flashing lights in the distance. It was dark. She thought it was a wide load, possibly a tractor.
“I saw a vehicle. It was a very large vehicle. I couldn’t tell what it was,” Shepherd said, adding she assumed it was an oversize load and could tell it was in the other lane. “It looked like it was moving toward me.”
She did not see a sign north of the crash site that warns drivers to watch for school buses, Shepherd testified.
She said she couldn’t see out of her pickup truck after the crash because of the deployed airbags and didn’t know what to do.
“At the accident, I was a mess, screaming and crying,” Shepherd said, explaining an "out of body experience" that didn’t feel real and being in shock.
Shepherd said she dialed 911 but the call would not go through. She then called her friend, Brittany Thompson, who is a dispatcher. Thompson took the stand Friday on Shepherd’s behalf.
“All I could hear was screaming … screams like I have never heard before,” Thompson recalled, saying it was hard to understand what Shepherd was saying. She said Shepherd asked her at one point to pray for the children and for her and although she’d heard the fate of the children she did not pass it on to Shepherd because she was emotionally unstable.
Shepherd faces anywhere from no days in prison with probation — if jail time is suspended — to 21 1/2 years. If she were convicted on all counts and ordered to serve them concurrently, that would result in a six-year prison term, or less with good time credit.