ROCHESTER – An allegation of a biased juror and that juror’s subsequent dismissal caused a three-hour delay Thursday morning in the trial of Alyssa Shepherd.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Greg?Heller said after court Wednesday that the court had been made aware of a written juror bias. He said the juror in question was interviewed, along with the rest of the jurors individually, and that no juror bias was found to exist, but the woman asked to be excused. Those interviews caused court to not begin until 11:31 a.m. Thursday instead of the scheduled 8:30 a.m.

The female juror was replaced by a male alternate, making the 12-person jury seven men and five women. The scheduled four-day trial could potentially lead into Saturday.

During the delay, the father of Alivia Stahl, Michael Stahl, told the media he would appreciate comments on stories online to be monitored and threatening ones to be removed.

“Comments from people with opinions need to hold off until proceedings are over,” Stahl said. “Right now is not the time. I don’t want to see people threatening to take someone’s life. We’ve already lost three lives. I have a 12-year-old daughter that gets on social media, and I don’t need her getting on there seeing that. I know I could delete my Facebook, but that doesn’t solve the problem.”

Shepherd, 24, is accused of hitting four children, killing three of them, as they boarded a school bus in October 2018. She faces three charges of reckless homicide, level 5 felonies; passing a school bus with the arm extended where bodily injury results, a Class A misdemeanor; and criminal recklessness committing aggressive driving resulting in serious bodily injury, a level 6 felony.

The crash happened around 7:15 a.m. Oct. 30 when Shepherd allegedly hit and killed 9-year-old Alivia Stahl; her 6-year-old twin brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle; and severely injured 11-year-old Maverik Lowe.

The children were crossing Ind. 25 north of Rochester to get on their school bus when they were hit. The bus’s flashing lights were on and its stop arm extended.

Shepherd told police she did not recognize the vehicle as a school bus.

Shepherd is represented by attorneys David William Newman and Michael Joseph Tuszynski, of Stanley, Tuszynski & Newman, South Bend. Fulton County Chief Prosecutor Mike Marrs and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Arndt are arguing on behalf of the state.

On Wednesday, jurors heard testimony from 10 of the state’s witnesses that included the mother of the children, Brittany Ingle; Lowe, and several witnesses and police.

Autopsies

The state began Thursday by calling pathologist Dr. Darin Wolfe, of Northeast Indiana Forensic Center, to the stand. Wolfe said he performed the autopsies and determined the cause and manner of death of the children involved.

Wolfe testified he performed those autopsies on Oct. 31, 2018, with Fulton County Coroner Jeri Good and Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Scott Gilbert present.

Wolfe told jurors Alivia was 4 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed 126 pounds and that she suffered external and internal injuries from blunt force trauma. Wolfe testified that Alivia had cuts, scrapes and bruises present from head to toe and that internally she suffered a spleen laceration, liver laceration, lung laceration, fractured right-arm bone, fractures in the back of her rib cage, a pelvic fracture, avulsion of the scalp and hemorrhage under that avulsion. Wolfe said she had defibrillator pads present that were used by medics on scene to assess for heart activity. He said her body had a large abrasion on pretty much the entire abdomen and a similar appearance on the back, which Wolfe called a brush abrasion. He told jurors a brush abrasion means the skin was physically in contact with something that was moving or the body was moving.

“It shears off the skin,” Wolfe said.

As Marrs began to submit evidence of the body bag photos and autopsy photos of the children taken in the morgue, Tuszynski approached the bench and Heller called a recess at 11:48 a.m. Shepherd was visibly upset and had to be escorted to a private room in the courtroom reserved for her and her counsel. Shepherd’s family and attorneys entered and exited the room during the 20-minute break, and at one point Shepherd could be seen lying on her back on the floor in the room, with her mother crouching down on the floor.

At 12:08 p.m., Heller began again, and the photos of Alivia were shown to the courtroom. Wolfe told jurors her cause of death was blunt force trauma. Alivia’s family sobbed throughout the entire pathologist testimony; neither jurors or Shepherd, reacted.

Next, Wolfe spoke of Mason Ingle’s autopsy and said he had multiple external injuries similar to Alivia’s but that his internal injuries were confined mostly to the head.

“The force was sufficient enough to break blood vessels inside the brain and he had a skull fracture in the back of the head,” Wolfe testified, saying those injuries are “usually unsurvivable.”

Mason Ingle was 4 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 67.5 pounds, and his cause of death was head injury.

The courtroom saw photos of Mason’s body bag and his autopsy photo.

Xzavier Ingle’s autopsy was reported next by Wolfe, who said Xzavier suffered multiple external injuries from blunt force trauma and internal injuries including brain hemorrhage, contusions of lungs, an internal brain hemorrhage and a fracture of the neck.

Xzavier was 4 feet, 1 1/2 inches tall and weighed 62.5 pounds, and his cause of death was multiple blunt force traumatic injuries, specifically from the head and the neck fracture, Wolfe said.

Tuszynski asked Wolfe to confirm that on the death certificates Wolfe had ruled the manner of death in all three children as accidental death, and Wolfe said he did.

Marrs asked, “That’s from a medical perspective?”

“Yes, it’s up to the law enforcement and the court to determine if a crime was committed,” Wolfe said. “All three are accidental. A vehicle impacted three people and those people did not live. Homicide has different definitions and is the intentional act to cause the death.”

Tuszynski asked Wolfe if homicide means death at the hands of another??

“Sure, that’s a good, unofficial definition,” Wolfe said.

In The Truck

The next witness jurors heard from was Jason “Ace” Hudkins, Shepherd’s brother who was 12 years old at the time of the accident and in the backseat of her pickup truck during the crash.

Hudkins testified he was sitting in the middle of the backseat of the Toyota Tacoma pickup and Shepherd was driving him back to Rochester that morning.

“Did there come a time when you knew there was something up ahead?” Arndt asked him.

“Yes. ... Because I saw it. I saw an object I thought was a semi or an oversize load,” he said.

Arndt asked him if the object had lights, to which Hudkins said yes.

“Did Alyssa say anything to you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, but he doesn’t remember what.

“Did you say anything to her?” Arndt asked.

“Yes,” he said, but he doesn’t remember what.

Arndt then asked him if he remembers being interviewed by an investigator in South Bend and telling that investigator during a recorded interview, “We saw a bus and we thought it was an oversized truck or wide load and we tried to go around it,” and that he said, “Alyssa asked him if he knows what it is and he said ‘no’ and she said ‘OK, I’m going to try to go around it.’”

Hudkins said yes.

Tuszynski asked Hudkins when did he realized that it was a school bus?

“After I got out of the car,” Hudkins said.

Next, jurors heard from Fulton County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Larry Jolley who said he’s been with the sheriff’s department for 25 years and was the third officer on the scene that morning. Jolley testified he took Shepherd to the hospital for a blood draw, and that during the drive he spoke with Shepherd.

“She was upset, she stated she believed it was a farm tractor and then she wanted to know how long is this gonna take because she has to get to work,” Jolley said.

Video Interview

Next on the stand was ISP Det. Michelle Jumper, who interviewed Shepherd at 9:30 a.m. that morning in a video recorded interview at the FCSD. The video was played for the courtroom.

In the video, Shepherd told Jumper she worked at Faith Outreach in Rochester as the children’s ministry director and that she was driving back from dropping her husband off at their Talma business, Alumi Tech Products. Shepherd was calm and laughed at times throughout the interview, even telling Jumper, “she’s very calming.”

When Jumper asked Shepherd who else was in her truck, Shepherd said, “My two kids and my brother.”?Shepherd told Jumper her brother had stayed overnight, and through tears, told Jumper her stepdad was having bypass surgery in Fort Wayne.

Shepherd’s calm demeanor returned after that and Jumper asked her what she remembered.

“I remember seeing a vehicle. I didn’t see a stop sign and then all of a sudden I do see kids. I feel like I tried stopping, but it was so too late,” Shepherd said.

At this point, Brittany and Shane Ingle exited the courtroom.

Jumper asked Shepherd how fast she was going.

“I’m usually like driving 50 or lower than,” she laughed. Shepherd said she travels that route several times a week but not during the time of morning like she did Oct. 30.

“It was very dark. I was using my brights until I saw the vehicle,” she said.

Jumper asked her if she was on her phone.

“My phone’s in my console. I was not on the phone. I know this could be so much worse if that was happening,” Shepherd said.

Jumper asked Shepherd the first thing she remembered after the crash.

“I don’t know if it was mental, but I was so shaky. I didn’t know what to do so I was searching for my phone to call somebody. When I saw kids ...,” Shepherd said, then was seen in the video hitting the palm of her hand with her fist, “I hit kids, I hit kids.”

Shepherd said everyone was wearing seatbelts and that she tried calling 911 but couldn’t get through.

“I don’t know if I’m impatient or what but no one’s picking up,” she said. She told Jumper she got out of her vehicle for a second but then she got back in. Shepherd also was seen saying she did not know the speed limit in that area because the speed limits from Talma change “from 35 to 45 to 55.”

Jumper is then seen asking Shepherd if there is anything else she can think of that she didn’t ask. Shepherd had nothing else to say.

Tuszynski asked Jumper if it was true she had listed in her report that Shepherd appeared very upset and scared. Jumper said she did. Arndt asked Jumper if Shepherd asked her any questions about the scene and if Shepherd asked her how the kids were doing. Jumper said “no” to both questions.

Bus Inspection

The state’s next witness was ISP Senior Trooper Travis Harold, who is a bus inspector, and he told jurors anytime there is a bus crash his position is required to investigate it.

Harold said he arrived at the scene around 9 a.m. that day and they did a thorough inspection inside, outside and underneath the bus. Harold said he found the bus to have minor violations.

Tuszynski asked Harold to confirm the anti-lock brake system light on the dash was illuminated, which Harold did. Marrs asked Harold if there were any violations related to the lighting. Harold said no.

Next, jurors heard testimony from ISP 1st Sgt. Gilbert. He said he arrived at the scene at 9:59 a.m. and didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m. because he was using a 3D laser scanner to document the scene. Gilbert provided the courtroom with a detailed example on the computer how the technology works. He said it is a laser measuring device that emits lasers and takes photographs then provides detailed imagery of the measurements and complex objects or buildings.

Gilbert said the distance from impact to where the Tacoma came to a rest measured 157 feet. He said the distance from impact to Alivia’s final resting place was approximately 85 feet, and that she was either drug or thrown that distance. Gilbert testified the distance from impact to the boys’ bodies was approximately 49 feet. The distance from the reflective watch for school bus road sign to the front bumper of the bus was approximately 860 feet, and the distance from the curve in the road to the front of the bus was approximately 1,183 feet.

Crash Data Recorder

The state’s final witness for the day was ISP Lt. Terry Gose, who said he’s been a trooper for 24-1/2 years and part of the crash reconstruction program since 1997. In February he was asked to review a download for Shepherd’s Tacoma to see what he could determine.

Gose said he received the file from the truck’s crash data recorder, and said it is nothing more than the safety system of a car used to primarly control, monitor and deploy the airbag. Gose said the CDR records data in constant 5-second loops, and if nothing significant happens then the loop continues to re-record. However, under certain situations the recording will be stopped and be saved, Gose said. He testified about the 5-second recording from the Tacoma from Oct. 30.

“In this particular vehicle, (the) data shows (at the) impact area that she accelerated, and after (the impact) the brakes were pressed,” Gose said. Gose said at the time of impact, Shepherd was traveling at 41 mph. “We’ve decreased our accelerator percent, but we’re not completely off of it,” he said.

Tuszynski asked Gose if his report reflects Shepherd’s speed was 41 mph, her accelerator percent was 0, her throttle percent was 0 and that the “brakes are on” is accurate. Gose said yes.

Tuszynski asked Gose to tell the jury what the standard perception reaction time is. Gose said during daylight hours, the PRT is 1.6 seconds for someone to be able to perceive something, receive that information and process it, then react. At night, that PRT doubles, Gose said.

Marrs said there’s been questions of skidmarks or lack thereof and asked would there be skidmarks if the Tacoma had an ABS. Gose said it is possible to lock up the ABS to cause tire marks.

The state will continue calling witnesses at 8:30 a.m. today.