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Drivers convicted in high-speed crash that killed 3 kids

The children's mother was driving her children home from a birthday party before two drivers slammed into her car at more than 80 mph.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Two drivers, linked to the deaths of three children after a high-speed crash, have been found guilty.

On Thursday, a jury found 45-year-old James Benford and 30-year-old Melanie Putnam guilty of reckless driving. Benford was also convicted of vehicular.

The convictions come after the pair were accused of causing a deadly April 2015 accident that took the lives of 3-year-old Lauren Coleman and her brothers, 4-year-old Jaylen and 4-year-old Jordan.

According to the investigation, the victims' mother, Cazhara Lovett was driving her children home from a birthday party when she entered the intersection of Moreland Avenue and Constitution Road. As Lovett went to turn left, Benford's car slammed into the back passenger side of hers. Investigators said the force of the crash pushed Lovett's car into the next lane, where it was struck by Putnam's.

Authorities said the impact of the crash killed Jordan instantly and caused Lauren to be ejected from the car. Jaylen survived the crash, but died days later at the hospital.

According to evidence from the trial, Benford and Putnam were both traveling more than 80 mph – well over the posted 45 mph speed limit – into a "blind hill" at the point of impact. An expert witness testified that it was likely Lovett did not see either car before trying to turn, leading to the crash.

Following the guilty convictions, a judge sentenced Benford to serve 30 years. Putnam was sentenced to 12 months.


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