INDIANAPOLIS – Two drivers have pleaded guilty and been sentenced for a 2020 hit-and-run crash that killed three teenagers walking along a road on the northwest side of Indianapolis.
On Thursday, 52-year-old Okadema Link and 27-year-old Shantiana Willis entered guilty pleas on charges of causing death while driving intoxicated in Marion County Court.
The two Indy residents, who according to local police are father and daughter, were subsequently sentenced to 15 and 9 years in prison respectively.
The charges against Link and Willis stem from a fatal OWI hit-and-run crash on May 23, 2020, that claimed the lives of three pedestrians, 14-year-old David Evans, 13-year-old Tyjiana Velez and 15-year-old Kierra Brown.
According to previous reports, IMPD was called around 1:20 a.m. to Kessler Boulevard near 38th Street on the city’s northwest side for a report of multiple pedestrians struck. Crews then found a crash scene involving at least two cars that stayed on scene and three young pedestrians.
EMS crews responded and later pronounced Evans, Velez and Brown deceased.
A short time later, IMPD investigators discovered that a third driver had left the crash scene. Preliminary findings led investigators to believe speed and driver impairment were factors in the crash, FOX59/CBS4 reported at the time.
Then, 5 days later on May 28, 2020, IMPD announced the arrests of Link and Willis for their roles in the teens’ deaths. It was later determined that both drivers were intoxicated at the time of the crash.
IMPD said at the time that Link was driving around 73 mph just two seconds prior to the crash. Additionally, they believe Willis was traveling around 88 mph just before the crash.
The posted speed limit on Kessler Boulevard at the time was 35 mph. Yet, community members said that speeding in the area had been a safety issue for years prior to the deadly crash.
After the crash, Link reportedly drove his car over the white fog line and struck the three teens who were walking on the gravel shoulder of the roadway. He then reportedly fled the scene without stopping to provide aid, IMPD said at the time.
Link was preliminarily charged with three counts of leaving the scene of an accident (level 3 felonies), three counts of causing death when operating a vehicle while intoxicated (level 4 felonies), and three counts of reckless homicide (level 5 felonies).
Willis, meanwhile, was charged with three counts of causing death when operating a vehicle while intoxicated (level 4 felonies), three counts of reckless homicide (level 5 felonies) and three counts of causing death when operating a vehicle with an ace of .08 or more (level 4 felonies).
However, most of the charges against Link and Willis did not stick in the subsequent trial.
On Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, the father and daughter both filed a guilty plea agreement for the three felony counts Causing Death When Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated they each faced. All other charges the two faced were then dismissed.
As a result of the plea agreement, Link was sentenced to spend the next 15 years in the Indiana Dept. of Corrections (5 years for each count), 6 more years in Marion County Community Corrections and 3 years on probation.
Willis received 9 years (3 years for each count) in D.O.C. and 6 years in community corrections. Willis will also be on probation for 3 more years and was also ordered to complete several substance abuse treatment programs to be determined by the state.