Government

Man convicted in fatal texting while driving crash keeps city job in Cedar Rapids

Keith Furne has no restriction on driving city vehicles

Keith Furne stands as the jury is lead into the courtroom during his trial at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada, Iowa, on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Furne is charged with reckless driving resulting in serious injury and two counts of homicide by vehicle in the 2016 vehicle crash that killed Selena Apodaca, 16, Isabella Severson, 13, and seriously injured their mother Jennifer Perez and her other daughters, Elysia Severson, 14, and a 4-year-old. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Keith Furne stands as the jury is lead into the courtroom during his trial at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada, Iowa, on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Furne is charged with reckless driving resulting in serious injury and two counts of homicide by vehicle in the 2016 vehicle crash that killed Selena Apodaca, 16, Isabella Severson, 13, and seriously injured their mother Jennifer Perez and her other daughters, Elysia Severson, 14, and a 4-year-old. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man convicted last week after a fatal texting-while-driving crash killed two teenaged sisters is back to work in his job as coordinator of the Tuma Soccer Complex, a public position through the city of Cedar Rapids.

Keith Furne, 35, who was hired in 2002, stayed on the job after his arrest in February 2017 on two counts of homicide by vehicle and one count of reckless driving resulting in serious injury — the same charges a jury found Furne guilty of on April 18.

At work, Furne has faced no restrictions, nor has he been prohibited from operating city-owned vehicles or equipment, since his arrest or conviction, Cedar Rapids interim human resources director Sandi Fowler said in an emailed response to questions.

“Mr. Furne had a valid driver’s license,” Fowler said.

Furne continued working up until his trial and had been on paid flex leave since April 9, and then on paid administrative leave since April 20, according to the city.

He returned to work on Friday, and earns $31.09 an hour, according to city officials.

In his role, Furne coordinates the operation and maintenance of the Tuma Soccer Complex, including program and staff direction, and building and grounds maintenance, according to a job description.

The complex consists of a 110-acre site with 33 soccer fields of various sizes, two full-sized football fields, concessions and thousands of games each year.

Other duties, according to a job description provided by the city, include “proficiently operates, maintains and supervises use of various motorized and non-motorized turf and grounds equipment including power mowers, trucks, tractors” and other equipment.

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He also is charged with opening and closing the Tuma complex, including operating security system and setting traffic controls.

Fowler said the city won’t comment on why he has been allowed to continue working or how his employment will be handled in the future, noting the “city does not comment or speculate on confidential personnel matters.”

Furne was coming from the Tuma complex just before the crash, but was in a personal vehicle and was using a personal cellphone.

Evidence at trial showed Furne was driving 60 mph west on County Home Road until just before rear-ending a Chevrolet Aveo driven by Jennifer Perez of Belle Plaine on Nov. 3, 2016. She was stopped behind a truck, waiting to turn left on North Troy Road.

The prosecution argued Furne, according to cellphone records, was texting up to the moment of impact, and Furne’s Silverado was going 60 mph up to a half-second before the crash, based on the vehicle’s data retrieval

Perez’s daughters Selena Apodaca, 16, and Isabella Severson, 13, were passengers in the Aveo and died in the crash. Her daughter Elysia Severson, now 16, was permanently injured, and Perez and daughter Mia, now 6, also were injured.

Sentencing is on June 4. Furne faces up to 25 years in prison.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

Gazette reporter Trish Mehaffey contributed to this report.

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