CHARDON, Ohio – A teenager charged with killing three students at an Ohio high school pleaded guilty to all charges Tuesday, the eve of the first anniversary of the shooting rampage.
T.J. Lane, now 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and a single count of felonious assault.
The Wednesday anniversary of the attacks at Chardon High School comes after a year of mass shootings, including one that left dead 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn., and another that claimed 12 lives at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
The anniversary in Chardon, a tight-knit courthouse community east of Cleveland, 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 Tuesday as he repeatedly said, “Yes, your honor,” to questions posed to him by the judge.
He could face life in prison. Judge David Fuhry scheduled sentencing for March 19.
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 that he wanted from a trial. Families of the victims agreed that 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 that 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 arm’s length from Nick Walczak, who was rolled into court in a wheelchair. Walczak, who was crippled in the attack, 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, east of Cleveland. He was there waiting for a bus to another school.
Lane, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was prosecuted as an adult. 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, and fired 10 shots at a group of students in the cafeteria.
Lane attended an alternative school for students who haven’t done well in traditional schools. He was at Chardon waiting for a bus.