Pickup driver gets 55 years in prison in church bus crash
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
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.
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.