By Rob Lafary
Thomas Crawford (purple shirt) leaves the Ripley County Courthouse following his sentencing Thursday morning, May 16.
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(Versailles, Ind.) - Thomas D. Crawford, 17, of Versailles, admitted to the acts of Reckless Driving and Reckless Homicide inside an emotion filled Ripley County juvenile court room Thursday morning.
Crawford was the driver of a white Dodge Ram that killed three South Ripley students and injured two more in a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of County Road 850 West and Fairgrounds Road just west of Osgood on March 7th, 2013. It was said on Thursday that neither Crawford nor Bowman, the driver of the Ford F-250 pickup truck made any attempt to brake at the stop sign of the intersection. However, it was noted that Crawford was going in excess of 80 mph. Bowman and passenger Jacob Vogel were not speeding.
The parents, siblings, and extended families of the victims, 18-year old Samantha Hansen, 17-yeard old Jacob Vogel, and 17-year old Curtis Bowman filled the jurors' box and the first two rows of the room, as a teary-eyed Crawford, surrounded by his parents and counsel Frank Cardis claimed responsibility of his actions to Ripley County Circuit Court Judge Carl Taul.
Following Crawford's admission, a sentence hearing took place. The judge committed the 17-year old to the Cedar Bridge Youth Facility in Muncie, Ind. for 120 days with 30 days suspended beginning on May 28th. Crawford's drivers license will also be suspended for one year and placed on probation until the age of 21. Because of the probation sentence, Crawford's drivers license will be surrendered following his one-year suspension until he turns 21. He is also ordered to pay court costs of $390 and sentenced to 350 hours of community service.
The mothers of the three victims, Pat Bowman, Jenny Hansen, and Ann Vogel all made statements following the sentencing. Mrs. Bowman stated that Crawford had shown "no remorse" in regards to the accident and had committed three habitual offenses in a 30-day period that included a speeding ticket on February 8th, running a school bus off the road the morning of the accident, and the accident itself.
Mrs. Hansen said that there was "no punishment that could take away her family's pain," and hoped that Crawford's sentence would "motivate him to do something very big with his life." Ann Vogel concluded that Crawford's decision was "reckless" and cost the community the lives of three young people who had "the potential to make differences." Crawford made no eye contact with the families.
Judge Taul concluded the courtroom proceedings with an emotional statement, saying "All I can say is Mr. Crawford, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes."
Ripley County Prosectuor Ric Hertel spoke following the hearing, saying that Crawford was not the victim in this tragedy and that the families wanted to see punishment for his actions. Pat Bowman once again spoke following Hertel, noting that an adult criminal case with prison time was not needed and that she hoped the verdict would be rehabilitation for Crawford.
Crawford, sporting a pair of white sunglasses outside, declined to comment following the sentence. Crawford's family also declined to say any words.