2 Briarcrest students killed in car crash, driver responsible charged with DUI

Published: May. 31, 2015 at 7:14 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2015 at 10:14 PM CDT
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Melandus Penson (Source: Marshall County Jail)
Melandus Penson (Source: Marshall County Jail)




Two high school girls at Briarcrest Christian School died Sunday morning in a car crash.

Rachel Lynch and Maddie Kruse, both 17 years old, were rising seniors at the Memphis school. Two other girls in the car, Kara Holden and Caroline Kam, were injured in the accident, but are expected to recover.

The crash happened in Marshall County, Mississippi, on Highway 78 near the DeSoto County line around 6 a.m. A total of five people were in the car, the four students and an unidentified person.

According to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, 32-year-old Melandus Penson, the driver of the other vehicle involved, is charged with two counts of DUI death and two counts of DUI injury. He is being held at the Marshall County Jail.

On Sunday morning at around 6:30, Marshall County sheriff officials say Penson was driving down route 78 when he clipped the back of a vehicle and sent them off the road.

David Cook with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office confirms that Penson has been arrested three other times recently. At least one of those arrests was for DUI.

Prosecutor Shirley Byers says they are taking this case very seriously, since this is not his first offense and he has four additional DUI charges in Lee, Union and Pontotoc counties.

She issued bail in the form of a 3 million dollar bond.

"Three million doesn't seem like much when two lives were taken, but in this case, that is a lot," Byers said. "Plus, I don't know anything about Mr Penson. He's not from here. I don't know where he works. I don't know if he has family or any ties here."

A Byhalia police officer said when the wreck happened, Penson's car crossed into the median, while the students' car flipped onto its side and crashed into a utility pole. The car hit the pole so hard that cameras on top of it flew off.

Lynch was pronounced dead at the scene, while Kruse was taken to the hospital in Olive Branch, where she was also pronounced dead.

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