Furne Sentenced to 10 Years for Text while Driving

posted by WMT News / KCRG-TV9 - 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- UPDATED: A man convicted in April of texting and driving and causing an accident that killed two teenagers will spend up to 10 years in prison and must pay more than $300,000 in restitution.

A jury in Story County convicted Keith Furne, 35, of texting on his phone when his pickup slammed into the back of a vehicle driven by Jennifer Perez.

The accident happened in November of 2016 on County Home Road in Linn County and killed Selena Apodaca, 16, and her sister Isabella Severson, 13. Another daughter Elysia Severson, now 16, suffered serious and permanent injuries.

Perez and her youngest daughter Mia, 6, were injured but recovered.

In victim statements prior to sentencing, Elysia Severson told the court she could have died that day as well. A brain injury impacted her IQ and she told the judge it was impossible to do math for more than a year.

Jennifer Perez described how doctors and nurses did their best but "our lives are bent and broken." She added "we all died that day."

Prosecutors asked the judge for a prison term not to exceed 10 years for each death and five years for the charge of reckless driving causing serious injury. The state asked that each term follow the other for a total of up to 25 years.

The defense said the community does not need protection from Keith Furne and recommended probation with no prison time.

In coming up with a compromise, to run the sentences at the same time for a total of 10 years, Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde noted it's a case in which "there's a family that's forever changed."

But he also noted that Furne had never been in trouble before and a sentence not to exceed 10 years will bring him back to the community sooner so he can begin to make restitution.

The judge also said the case illustrates that in the right circumstances a phone can be considered a deadly weapon and the judgment sends a message that courts will take texting while driving cases that result in death very seriously.

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