Pickup driver gets 55 years in prison in church bus crash

San Antonio Express-News - - FRONT PAGE - By John MacCor­mack STAFF WRITER

UVALDE — Jack D. Young, the driver of a large Dodge pickup who killed 13 peo­ple and badly in­jured an­other when he crashed into their church bus last year, was sen­tenced Fri­day to 55 years in prison.

State District Judge Camile DuBose sen­tenced Young af­ter an emo­tion­ally drain­ing three-day hear­ing.

“You have a choice. You can choose to live your life as a vic­tim or you can honor the spirit and the lives of those who were killed that day, and rise above your cir­cum­stance,” DuBose told him be­fore hand­ing down the sen­tence. “Je­sus loves you, and you must learn to love your­self.”

More than 60 peo­ple were in the court­room, many of them rel­a­tives of the ac­ci­dent vic­tims, who were mem­bers of the First Bap­tist Church of New Braun­fels. Also present were Young’s fam­ily and friends.

Af­ter the sen­tence, some rel­a­tives of the vic­tims went over to com­fort and em­brace Young’s fam­ily. Sev­eral of them spoke ten­derly to him as well.

“I’m crushed. I’m hurt. This is a nowin sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­one,” said Dawn Tys­dal-Jean, whose mother was killed in the crash, mo­ments af­ter she spoke to Young as he cried.

“I feel it’s just an­other life lost. I’m bro­ken in my heart for both fam­i­lies,” she said.

The 14 el­derly church­go­ers were re­turn­ing from a re­treat in Leakey on March 29, 2017, when Young’s truck crashed into their bus on U.S. 83 north of Uvalde. It was one of the dead­li­est ac­ci­dents in state his­tory.

Young, 21, later ad­mit­ted he had

mar­i­juana and taken clon­azepam, a pre­scribed anti-de­pres­sant, be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board con­cluded that the ac­ci­dent was caused by his im­paired driv­ing, which was cap­tured on a cell­phone video by a motorist who no­ticed Young weav­ing on the high­way.

Young pleaded no con­test in June to 13 counts of in­tox­i­ca­tion manslaughter and one count of in­tox­i­ca­tion as­sault. He faced a pos­si­ble life sen­tence.

Young was the last per­son to take the stand Fri­day and gave an emo­tional apol­ogy to the friends and fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.

“I can’t put into words how sorry I am. I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed to God that it isn’t so,” he said.

“If any­one, it should have been me. I’ve tried to kill my­self be­fore. They were beau­ti­ful peo­ple with beau­ti­ful fam­i­lies,” he said.

In a some­times barely au­di­ble voice, Young talked about his dif­fi­cult up­bring­ing and about be­ing raped as a boy.

He said the as­sault had haunted him in re­cent years, lead­ing to his com­mit­ment for psy­chi­atric treat­ment in a San An­to­nio hos­pi­tal. He said his drug use was a means of cop­ing with re­cur­ring mem­o­ries of the as­sault.

Rogelio F. Muñoz, Young’s lawyer, tried to blame one of Young’s doc­tors for giv­ing him a six­month pre­scrip­tion for clon­azepam and not mon­i­tor­ing its ef­fects.

“This doc­tor gave a min­dal­ter­ing drug to a men­tal pa­tient,” Muñoz as­serted.

Un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion from District At­tor­ney Dan Kin­dred, Young ad­mit­ted that his drug use con­tin­ued af­ter the ac­ci­dent and he was sent to jail to await sen­tenc­ing.

Friends and rel­a­tives of the vic­tims shared mem­o­ries dur­ing the hear­ing this week, told fa­vorite sto­ries, showed fam­ily pho­to­graphs and tes­ti­fied about their losses.

Rose Mary Har­ris, the only sur­vivor in the bus, brought many in the courtsmoked room to tears Thurs­day when she talked about see­ing so many of her friends die.

Har­ris has un­der­gone mul­ti­ple surg­eries and now walks with a cane, where be­fore she could walk 3 miles.

Sev­eral of Young’s fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing his par­ents and older sis­ter, tes­ti­fied in de­tail Fri­day of the dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances of his up­bring­ing, be­gin­ning with al­co­hol and drug abuse by both par­ents.

His sis­ter, Chelsea Young, de­scribed how the fam­ily had ba­si­cally fallen apart af­ter the death of her grand­mother and how Jack had suf­fered the most from ne­glect.

“I’m very sorry for the pain you are go­ing through. You all have such beau­ti­ful, lov­ing fam­ily mem­bers you lost,” she said, be­fore con­trast­ing it with her own child­hood.

“I don’t have any happy mem­o­ries. It was emo­tional and men­tal abuse, phys­i­cal abuse some­times,” she said.

But, she said, de­spite the ne­glect and in­sta­bil­ity at home, she never fore­saw such a tragedy.

“I’m sorry for the ac­tions of my brother. I never thought it would reach this far. We didn’t have any ex­am­ple. There was no chance,” she said.

Young’s fa­ther, Ben Young, and his mother, Lori Davis, also tes­ti­fied about his harsh up­bring­ing. Both ac­knowl­edged sub­stance abuse and ac­cepted blame for fail­ing as par­ents.

In his clos­ing ar­gu­ments, Muñoz pleaded with the judge, say­ing, “We have one in­ci­dent, one time. Don’t throw him away. Don’t throw him away.”

District At­tor­ney Dan Kin­dred asked for a sen­tence of 130 years.

“The mag­ni­tude of the loss of life must be re­flected in the mag­ni­tude of the sen­tence. Jack Young has made his bed, and now he’s go­ing to lay in it,” he said.

“The mag­ni­tude of the loss of life must be re­flected in the mag­ni­tude of the sen­tence.” District At­tor­ney Dan Kin­dred, ask­ing for a sen­tence of 130 years

Pho­tos by Billy Calzada / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Jack D. Young ad­mit­ted he had smoked mar­i­juana and taken a pre­scribed anti-de­pres­sant be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

Rose Mary Har­ris, the only sur­vivor of the church bus crash, now walks with a cane.

Pho­tos by Billy Calzada / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Chelsea Young, sis­ter of Jack D. Young, de­scribed how the fam­ily had fallen apart af­ter the death of her grand­mother and how Jack had suf­fered from ne­glect.

Ben Young, fa­ther of Jack D. Young, tes­ti­fied about his harsh up­bring­ing and ac­knowl­edged sub­stance abuse and ac­cepted blame for fail­ing as a par­ent.

Jack D. Young lis­tens at his sen­tenc­ing hear­ing in Uvalde on Fri­day.

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