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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Decision not to prosecute mom was the right one

Justice isn’t totally blind.

It was wrong of a grieving mother to attack the woman who killed her children after the latter’s sentencing on Dec. 18 in the Fulton County Courthouse. But it also was right that the special prosecutor assigned to the case decided not to pursue charges.

Most of Indiana has probably been aware of the case that precipitated 29-year-old Brittany Ingle’s outburst when Alyssa Shepherd was sentenced to four years in prison, three years of home detention and three years of probation for the deaths of Ingle’s three children. Shepherd was driving a pickup when she struck and killed the children as they were crossing a rural, two-lane highway to get on a school bus. She was convicted by a jury of three counts of reckless homicide, criminal recklessness and passing a school bus, causing injury.

Shepherd was 24 on Oct. 30, 2018 when the accident occurred, killing twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle, both 6, and their sister Alivia Stahl, 9. The children were crossing the highway north of Rochester to get on their school bus. Also struck and critically injured was Maverik Lowe, 11, who had more than 20 surgeries as a result of the crash.

Shepherd failed to stop for the school bus even though its lights were flashing and its stop-arm extended. She told police she saw the lights but didn’t recognize the vehicle as a school bus until the children were right in front of her.

Since then, the Indiana Legislature has increased penalties for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

Just after Shepherd’s sentencing, Ingle rushed past security and hit Shepherd in the head “with what appeared to be her hand/elbow,” according to court documents, and the force of the blow pushed Shepherd’s head into the wall.

Shepherd was transported to Woodlawn Hospital where she received a CT scan and was found to have no injuries, according to news reports. She was then booked into the Fulton County Jail.

Ingle had to be restrained by court security and Indiana State Police officers. She was arrested and taken from the courtroom in handcuffs and booked in the Fulton County jail on a misdemeanor battery charge. She was later released on bond.

Officers reported that Ingle acknowledged in the aftermath that she had made a mistake in attacking Shepherd.

Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs requested a special prosecutor for Ingle’s case last month, because his office said they could not be unbiased after working closely with Ingle on the Shepherd case. Miami County Prosecutor Jeff Sinkovics took over and finally confirmed Friday that he’s decided not to press charges against Ingle of Rochester, WRTV-TV of Indianapolis reported.

Part of what fueled Ingle’s outburst may have been her perception of a lack of remorse from Shepherd. Ingle has said she still holds strong feelings toward Shepherd.

“We wanted an apology,” Ingle said in a story by WNDU-TV of South Bend. “A sincere, heartfelt apology. I mean, this story is tragic enough. Our kids were our world, and they were everything to us. Imagine you’re seeing the person who did it, and it’s like she dismissed what value they had for life.”

It’s impossible to imagine the pain Ingle has already endured. She erred in her outburst toward Shephered but prosecuting Ingle would not have served justice.

And perhaps now that the penalties for breaking school bus stop-arm laws have been increased, in large part because of the publicity of this case, fewer Hoosier mothers and fathers will have to fear for the lives of their children just going to school.

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