Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

May 16, 2013

Driver in fatal accident sentenced

Diane Raver
The Herald-Tribune

BATESVILLE — VERSAILLES – Thomas Crawford, 17, Dillsboro, the driver of a truck involved in the March 7 accident that killed three South Ripley High School students and injured him along with two others, admitted to the delinquent acts of reckless homicide and reckless driving May 16.

About 50 people, including victims’ family members, filled the courtroom as Ripley Circuit Court Judge Carl Taul read the disposition that was agreed upon by the juvenile, his parents, his attorney and Ripley County prosecutor Ric Hertel.

It said the teen would be placed in a secure juvenile detention facility for 120 days with 30 days suspended. He must admit to his traffic infraction filed in Versailles Town Court and pay fines and fees associated with the ticket. Crawford will be placed on reporting probation until age 21.

According to the disposition, the terms of his probation include surrendering his driver’s license until he reaches age 21 or upon approval by Ripley Circuit Court and completing 350 hours of community service. He must follow all laws and ordinances, not be guilty of any acts of bad conduct, report to the probation department each month, answer all reasonable inquiries and permit probation officers to visit him at his residence or elsewhere.

He cannot leave the state without permission from probation. Crawford has to obey his parents and have their permission to be anywhere that requires him to be away from home.

In addition, the teen cannot possess firearms or dangerous weapons and cannot use alcohol, tobacco or controlled substances unless prescribed by a physician. He is responsible for probation fees and court costs and cannot change his address without prior permission from probation. He will also have a curfew and must attend school regularly.

Within 30 days of the order, the juvenile and his parents must obtain individual and/or family counseling and follow recommendations by the provider.

The mothers of the teens who were killed had opportunities to tell personal stories about the children they lost as well as tell Crawford how they felt.

Pat Bowman, who lost her son Curtis, the other driver, said there was “intentional speed-up as mentioned in the police report. Tommy (Crawford) never tried to stop or divert the steering wheel even after the initial impact or the second impact as stated in the police report. It is human nature and natural response to either swerve or hit the brakes when seeing a squirrel or rabbit crossing the road.

“Tommy is a habitual offender due to the facts of being witnessed and documented three times in the previous 30 days before the accident.

“In regards to Tommy being a juvenile, this is good for Tommy. While his lifestyle may be interrupted for a short while, our lifestyle has and will be changed forever. I watch our 15-year-old son experience the loss of his brother and best friend .... My husband is on daily medication just so he can make it through the day. He is 45, and his body and hair have aged what seems like 20 years in the last two months .... My youngest daughter struggles to find her place in the school and community, as her friends have changed.

“So Tommy, your rehabilitation will go by quickly, unlike our forever years without our son, Curtis. As a mother, I want you to pay the same price, but as a Christian and member of society, I want you to understand what the impact is and someday to become a responsible adult.”

Mary Hanson, mother of Samantha, a front-seat passenger in Crawford’s truck, commented, “You owe it to Samantha, Curtis, Jacob, Kayla and Caleb and their families to tell the people of this community that it wasn’t kids being kids that caused this, that it was your irresponsibility, lack of good judgment and showing off that caused this.

“There is no justice in this. There is no punishment that can make us feel better because no matter what, our loved ones will not come back to us here.

“We do believe in accountability. You have to be accountable for your actions. You have to have punishment. I hope that you think about what your actions caused for the rest of your life .... I hope this motivates you to do something very big with your life. God has given you this opportunity. Do something great with it.”

Ann Vogel, mother of Jacob, Bowman’s front-seat passenger, noted, “Knowing there was a stop sign ahead, he (Crawford) shifted into fifth gear and accelerated above interstate speed on a county road and because of this decision, our community lost three young people who had the potential to make differences in all of our lives.”

The judge told Crawford he was to report to the Ripley County Jail May 28 for transport to Cedar Bridge Youth Center, Muncie.