Noblesville West Middle School shooting suspect to admit guilt

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – The suspect in the Noblesville West Middle School shooting will admit his guilt in the case.

The suspect's attorney, Chris Eskew, said his client will enter a "juvenile admission" at his next court hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 5. This is equivalent to a guilty plea, Eskew said. After that, the case will proceed to disposition, which is equivalent to sentencing if the teen had been charged as an adult.

A fact-finding hearing in the case had been rescheduled for next week, but the court granted a continuance and scheduled the Nov. 5 hearing.

The suspect, who was 13 years old at the time of the incident, is accused of shooting Ella Whistler and science teacher Jason Seaman on May 25. Whistler was hit multiple times and Seaman, who’s credited with stopping the suspect, was shot three times.

“I hate to be so basic, but they've just changed the name of a guilty hearing and sentencing. That's what it is, fact finding and disposition,” said attorney Ralpg Staples.

Court records show the shooter had a .22-caliber gun, a .45-caliber gun and a knife during the attack. That suspect is named in the documents, but due to his age, we are not naming him.

In fact, attorney Ralph Staples, who is not connected to the case, says keeping the case in juvenile court means many details will remain confidential, unlike the adult system.

“The process is similar. The result is what is different,” said Staples.

Staples says while adult courts often focus on incarceration and punishment, juvenile courts include frequent review hearings, with a focus on recovery.

“Most of your juvenile sentences include, as you might expect, rehabilitation classes and counseling to try to get the person back on the right track,” said Staples. “A juvenile judge is more interested in helping a young person and putting them in a position once they become an adult to succeed.”

A two-day fact-finding hearing was originally set for June 25 and June 26 and would have essentially served as the suspect’s trial. At the time, it was pushed back to September, with the original delay requested because “the discovery in this matter is voluminous, and will require additional time to evaluate.”

Information released by the Hamilton County prosecutor in June showed the suspect facing 11 criminal counts, including attempted murder and aggravated battery, as a delinquent child.

The suspect appeared in court on June 11 for his initial hearing, which lasted about 15 minutes. His case is being handled in juvenile court because, under state law, a child 13 years of age can only be waived to adult court if the attempt to murder an individual results in death.