Alyssa Shepherd
Alyssa Shepherd
ROCHESTER – A six-woman, six-man jury was selected Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court for the trial of Alyssa Shepherd.

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 was extended.

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

Judge Greg Heller will preside over the scheduled four-day jury trial, and opening arguments begin at 8:30 a.m. today.

Jury selection began at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, with 130 of 225 jurors reporting.

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.

Attorneys went through five rounds before seating the 12-person jury and two alternates. It took 3 hours, 40 minutes to seat the jury, and Heller adjourned the court for the day at 3 p.m.

Potential jurors heard from Marrs that they will be presented with tough evidence that will include photos of “dead kids.” Marrs said jurors can expect to see autopsy photos of children in a morgue and also be subjected to a 911 phone call.

A handful of potential jurors throughout the day said that evidence would be too much for them to handle and were excused. One man said his daughter was struck by a distracted driver and he was having a hard time sitting in the courtroom because he can picture his daughter lying in the street. Another woman wept at the topic of children victims.

Marrs also continued throughout the day to define the difference between reckless behavior and intentional behavior. He used an example of throwing a hammer into a crowd as reckless, versus hitting someone over the head with a hammer as intentional.

Marrs also reminded the potential jurors that they are not responsible for Shepherd’s sentence; that is a job for the judge.

Tuszynski started by telling potential jurors that the state has the burden of proof and said he and his client could sit there and play cards the entire time.

Tuszynski then repeated a scenario during each round of jury selection about him buying tacos and putting a taco seasoning packet in his pocket. He told potential jurors a story to consider is where he’s in a rush to get to the grocery store, get home and make dinner. He doesn’t like the grocery carts and he doesn’t like the handbaskets so he just piles everything up in his arms. When he gets to the taco seasoning packet aisle, he’s having a hard time finding the packet and looking all around. When he gets it, his hands are full and he has more things to get so he slips the packet into his suit jacket packet. But he’s going to pay for it. Then he finishes getting the rest of the things he needs and goes to the checkout and pays, but when he gets home and takes off his jacket, the taco seasoning packet is in his pocket and he forgot to pay for it.

Tuszynski said the purpose of this story is there has to be a criminal act and criminal intent to have a crime. He meant to pay for it, so did he steal the taco packet?

He told jurors there could be evidence, even video of him looking around the aisle, looking like he’s casing the store, or even perhaps a receipt from a cashier that shows he paid for everything but no packet. Tuszynski asked jurors, if he took the stand in his own taco seasoning packet theft trial, would they think when he got on the stand that he’s going to say whatever he needs to say to get out of the taco seasoning case? Then he asked them what if they didn’t hear him testify? Would that make them think he’s guilty?

“But I don’t have to defend myself,” Tuszynski said.

Attorneys from both sides acknowledged that they would be shocked if anyone present said they hadn’t heard about the case before today. Tuszynski told jurors he knows everyone has heard about the case, but that they will need to be able to make a decision and apply the law to strictly what they hear in court. Some potential jurors were excused because they admitted they had already formed opinions.

Marrs listed the names of possible witnesses the state will call that include Brittany Stahl, the mother of the three victims killed; Lowe; the driver of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. bus involved; several Indiana State Police officers; Fulton County Sheriff’s Office deputies; two doctors and several fact witnesses.

Shepherd’s attorneys also named a short list of possible witnesses they may call for testimony, including family members and TVSC Superintendent Blaine Conley.

Marrs told potential jurors the whole case is about whether this is reckless or not reckless and does it rise to the level of being negligent or reckless.

If convicted on all charges, Shepherd faces a maximum sentence of 21-1/2 years in prison.