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Why no charges are being filed in Hamilton County deadly prom crash

Kalen Hart and Lendon Byram were killed in a crash on their way to the Hamilton Heights H.S. prom on May 1.

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The Hamilton County prosecutor declined to file charges in a deadly car crash that killed two teens on their way to prom last May. 

Loved ones of Kalen Hart and Lendon Byram, who died in the May 1 crash at 281st Street and Lacy Road, are fighting for justice and answers. 

“We don’t want to let them down. We will fight to our very last breath,” said Hart's stepfather, Rob Conaway. “It just makes no sense. I am totally dumbfounded."

But a legal expert told 13News these types of cases usually don’t end up in criminal court.  

“Oftentimes in criminal cases, the law requires intentional action on behalf of the driver or reckless conduct,” said Jack Crawford, a longtime defense attorney in Indianapolis. “Just driving negligently or carelessly is not enough to get a person arrested.” 

Credit: Jody Conaway

According to a copy of the police report obtained by 13News, investigators believe it’s more likely than not that Byram stopped at a stop sign before going through the intersection, where his vehicle was T-boned by an SUV. 

RELATED: Two high school students die in crash on their way to prom

The report also states the other driver, a 17-year-old classmate, was going about 80 mph in a 55 mph zone at the time of the crash. She was issued a speeding ticket.  

In the report, investigators say that if she was going the speed limit and Byram yielded the right of way at the intersection, it’s unlikely the crash would’ve happened.   

“Sometimes the circumstances of an accident can be tragic as it was in this case and just terrible, but no criminal charges ensue,” Crawford said.  

Crawford said speeding can be considered reckless driving, but the rule of thumb is usually 30 mph over the speed limit. In this case, police say the teen driver was going about 25 mph over the limit.  

“The family of the deceased is suffering greatly and want to see a resolution, preferable a legal resolution, but the law doesn’t have an answer for all questions,” he said.  

RELATED: ‘It’s like a knife through the heart’ | Prosecutor not filing charges in deadly Hamilton County prom crash

Friends and community members protested outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office Friday, saying a state law needs to change to bring justice to cases like this.  

An online petition was also started hoping to change the law to make the driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed forfeit any right of way. They plan to send it to U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz. Right now, it has more than 700 signatures. 

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on this case. They previously told 13News they will not make a statement on an uncharged juvenile matter. 

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