Thomas J. Sheeran
CHARDON: A young man charged with killing three students at Chardon High School pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of aggravated murder and other charges.
T.J. Lane, now 18, also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated murder and a single count of felonious assault. The plea came one day short of the first anniversary of the attacks.
Today’s anniversary will be marked with a memorial walk and service activities at the school.
Lane, dressed in a green open-collar shirt and dark slacks with his once-shaggy hair buzzed short, held his head up without emotion as he repeatedly said, “Yes, your honor,” to questions Judge David Fuhry posed to him.
Fuhry scheduled sentencing for March 19. Lane could face life in prison.
Lane wasn’t subject to the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the crimes.
Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said the plea provided the same outcome he wanted from a trial. Families of the victims agreed Lane should face life in prison, he said.
Flaiz said he was prepared to present a motive at trial but declined to specify it.
Two wounded survivors and parents of most of the victims watched Lane’s plea.
Bob Parmertor, father of Danny Parmertor, 16, who was killed, said after the plea he felt justice would be done if Lane “will never see daylight again” outside prison. “We’re just very glad it’s not going to trial,” he said.
Lane’s grandmother, weeping quietly, sat an arm’s length from Nick Walczak, who was rolled into court in a wheelchair. Walczak shifted his eyes to Lane as the attempted aggravated murder charge detailing his case was read by the judge.
Lane was determined to take responsibility, his attorney said after the court session.
“T.J.’s plea of guilty is a complete admission to each and every element of each and every charge, every crime,” defense attorney Ian Friedman said.
“It is hoped that the decision will bring closure to what has been a tragic year for the victims, their families and loved ones, T.J.’s family and the entire community both near and far.”
Prosecutors say Lane fired 10 shots at students in a cafeteria at Chardon High School. He was there waiting for a bus to an alternative school for students who haven’t done well in traditional schools.
Minutes before his guilty plea, the judge accepted a report finding Lane mentally competent to stand trial.
Both the defense and the prosecution had sought court-ordered psychiatric testing for Lane to determine if he would be competent to stand trial.
Before the case went to adult court last year, a juvenile court judge ruled that Lane was mentally competent despite evidence he suffers from hallucinations, psychosis and fantasies. He withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity Tuesday.
Investigators say he admitted shooting at students but said he didn’t know why he did it. Prosecutors say Lane took a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the school Feb. 27, 2012.