Public Safety

Furne Trial: Data shows Furne sent text 7 seconds before first 911 call

Officer details timing of texts in fatal crash trial

Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks speaks this week during the trial of Keith Furne at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada, Iowa. Maybanks on Friday had Linn County Sheriff’s officers detail their investigation of the Nov. 3, 2016, crash that killed two teenagers on County Home Road. The trial of the driver, Keith Furne of Cedar Rapids, continues Monday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks speaks this week during the trial of Keith Furne at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada, Iowa. Maybanks on Friday had Linn County Sheriff’s officers detail their investigation of the Nov. 3, 2016, crash that killed two teenagers on County Home Road. The trial of the driver, Keith Furne of Cedar Rapids, continues Monday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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NEVADA, Iowa — A Linn County Sheriff’s officer testified Friday that the last text message Keith Furne sent on Nov. 3, 2016 — before his pickup crashed into a car, killing two teens — was seven seconds before the first 911 call came in about the crash.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Lowe, who retrieved the text data from Furne’s android cellphone, testified Furne sent a message to another man at 3:41:50 p.m. that day. According to previous testimony, the first 911 call came at 3:41:57 p.m.

Furne’s conversation with the man started at 3:01 p.m., and Furne sent his last, one-word text — “We” — at 3:43 p.m. The text was saved as a draft and never sent.

Furne, 35, of Cedar Rapids, is charged with reckless driving resulting in serious injury and two counts of homicide by vehicle. The jury trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday in Story County District Court. The trail was moved out of Linn County because of pretrial publicity.

The prosecution contends Furne was texting when he crashed his Chevrolet Silverado pickup into a Chevy Aveo on County Home Road. The crash killed passengers Selena Apodaca, 16, and her sister Isabella Severson, 13, and seriously injured another sibling, Elysia Severson, 14. Their mother, Jennifer Perez, was driving the girls home to Belle Plaine that day and was stopped, waiting for another truck in front of her to turn left, when Furne struck the Aveo.

The defense is not denying Furne unintentionally caused the two deaths and injuries but is arguing Furne’s vision was impacted by the sun and hills along the road. Furne also denies texting at the time of the crash.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks on Friday asked Lowe if he tested Furne’s cell to see how long it would take for the phone to save a text to draft form if it wasn’t sent.

Lowe said 50 seconds, once he laid down the phone with no movement. He performed the test twice.

He said the other man texted Furne at 3:43:29 p.m. but that text was never read, Lowe said.

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In earlier testimony, Dr. Jonathan Thompson, a deputy state medical examiner, went over the autopsies of the two teenagers, saying both died from blunt force injuries resulting from the crash. According to previous testimony, both sisters were in the back seat of the Aveo and pushed forward into the front seats.

In other testimony, a certified mechanic with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office said nothing was mechanically wrong with Furne’s pickup, including its brakes, outside of issues or damage that resulted from the crash.

A Linn County Secondary Roads Department superintendent also testified there were no line of sight or anything else that would have obstructed Furne’s view of the road.

Linn County Sheriff’s Sgt. Erich Lear, continuing his testimony from Thursday, said the crash data report showed Furne didn’t apply his brakes before impact and there were no skid marks on the road.

Lear also took measurements to see if a cat toy found in Furne’s truck could have prevented him from braking, which Furne told officers had happened.

Lear said he put the toy underneath the brake pedal, and he could depress the brake pedal all the way except for about 2 inches. He concluded the toy would not have prevented the brakes from working.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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