GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 17-year-old is standing trial for the deaths of two people who were killed in a violent crash in Kentwood following a police chase earlier this year.
The suspect, Alex Torrez, faces 10 charges in all, including two counts of second-degree murder.
Michigan State Police say Torrez refused to stop the night of March 11 when a trooper tried to pull him over for speeding on US-131. After about five minutes and seven miles, the chase ended when Torrez ran a red light at 52nd Street and Broadmoor Avenue and slammed into another vehicle. Torrez’s passenger, his 15-year-old cousin David Torrez, the driver of the other car, Calvin College student Tara Oskam, were thrown from their respective vehicles and killed.
Torrez, who was 16 at the time of the crash, does not have a driver’s license.
On Tuesday, during opening statements in Alex Torrez’s trial, Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Boivin said Torrez was going 116 mph moments before the crash and had drugs in his system. Boivin asked the jury to find Torrez guilty of second-degree murder.
“He knowingly created a high risk of death or great bodily harm, knowing that death or that harm is a likely result of what he did,” Boivin argued.
Torrez’s defense attorney James Kiebel isn’t arguing against the lesser charges against his client. However, he contends that the deaths weren’t murder, but rather an awful accident.
“What you won’t hear is that my client knowingly created this situation,” Kiebel told the jury. “Fear dictated his actions, not his brain. He by no way intended to create a situation where death was a likely result.”
After opening statements, friends and family of those involved were forced to relive the night of the crash as the prosecution showed video and pictures of the scene. Some family members left the courtroom after a warning from the prosecutor.
A Kentwood police officer who responded to the scene said the crash was “the absolute worst by far” he had ever seen.
Witnesses who came upon the wreck also testified, as did Oskam’s roommate, Rachael Stapley, who was on the phone with Oskam during the crash.
“I heard the glug, glug, glug of her car rolling to a stop and then silence,” she testified.
The Michigan State Police trooper who chased Torrez, Christopher Bommarito, also took the stand. Kiebel questioned his decision to chase Torrez.
“Are you contemplating at all that if he (Torrez) keeps going, he could kill someone if I keep chasing him?” Kiebel asked during cross-examination.
“I have no way to predict that, sir,” Bommarito responded.
The trial is expected to last through the week, with testimony likely wrapping up by Friday. Torrez’s attorney told 24 Hour News 8 it’s unlikely his client will take the stand in his own defense.