A Kent County jury on Friday found 17-year-old Alejandro 'Alex' Torrez guilty of second-degree murder for a March crash that killed two people, including his cousin, as Torrez fled a traffic stop.
The March 11 crash in Kentwood also killed 21-year-old Tara Oskam, a Calvin College student who was on her way home when her vehicle was struck on the driver's side.
“We’re just so relieved that the jury did find him guilty of the murder,’’ Tara Oskam's father, Rob Oskam, said outside the courtroom. “Both families, lives are ruined here for all of us. And we just have to give this all to God. He's holding us up.''
Jurors deliberated about two hours before returning their verdict. Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan ordered that Torrez be held without bond pending a sentencing hearing next month.
Defense attorney James J. Kiebel said he was disappointed with Friday's verdict. He said he was hopeful jurors would only find Torrez guilty of a lesser included offense, such as reckless driving causing death. Second-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison.
“He never contemplated that his actions could lead to someone’s death,'' Kiebel said. “I think they could have found him guilty of any of the other charges other than second-degree murder. I think the evidence showed he was not in his right mind at the time.''
Rob Oskam, holding tightly to wife Deb, thanked jurors and Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Boivin, who tried the case. "It was a strong case and he did an excellent job,'' Deb Oskam said.
The couple say they believe the verdict was just.
"We’re all just asking to have Alejandro held accountable for his actions that night,'' Rob Oskam said. "He made many wrong decisions. He had multiple times to stop and pull over and he didn’t.''
Deb Oskam said she hopes some good will come from the tragedy.
"We're hoping people learn from this,'' she said. "We don't ever want any other family to have to go through this.''
The pursuit began after a Michigan State Police trooper clocked Torrez driving 90 mph on U.S. 131 in Wyoming. The trooper pursued the Chrysler 300 after Torrez exited at 54th Street.
Police say Torrez ran four red lights before his eastbound car ran another light at the intersection of 52nd Street and Broadmoor Avenue SE. He collided with Oskam's Honda Accord. She was heading north on Broadmoor and had a green light when her car was struck.
Oskam, who was wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from her vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene. David Feliciano Torrez, a 15-year-old passenger in his cousin’s car, also died at the scene.
Torrez reached speeds of 115 miles per hour and covered about seven miles before the collision.
Torrez, who was 16 at the time of the crash, rejected a plea deal in July that would have put him in prison for a minimum term of between 15 and 25 years.
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