HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — The 13-year-old boy who admitted to shooting his teacher and his classmate at Noblesville West Middle School was ordered by the judge to serve time in a juvenile detention center until he’s 18 years old.
He was remanded to the custody of the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) during his disposition hearing on Wednesday morning.
That is the most severe punishment the teen could receive because he was not charged as an adult. Hamilton Circuit Judge Paul A. Felix could have also ordered him to serve community service, spend time in a mental health treatment center or serve probation.
“As an adult, you would have faced decades behind bars. I read your statement of apology and I reject it… You said the right words, but what have you done to show remorse? You wanted devastation, a tragedy for the ages. Where do you get these ideas?” Felix said in court.
“Our client is a hard kid to read,” said defense attorney Chris Eskew. “I do believe he is remorseful for what he did. I believe he probably needs a little more insight himself into what happened.”
The judge’s ruling is more favorable to the prosecution who wanted to send him to the IDOC as opposed to a private treatment facility. A facility in Dyer, Indiana was willing to accept him, but the judge decided the IDOC was a better option.
“I believe the judge did the right thing given the facts and circumstances of this case and the limitations of Indiana law,” said Hamilton County prosecutor, Lee Buckingham.
“Obviously we felt our client and the community would be better served with different placement,” Eskew said. “But realistically it’s probably the same sort of treatment.”
Felix said he made the decision based on the shooter’s apparent lack of remorse and continued danger to those around him. The judge also pointed out that the shooter comes from a stable, caring, and supportive family and community.
“You took this community’s sense of safety,” Felix added. “You took the girl’s ability to play sports and dress herself.”
After the teen turns 18, he can be placed on probation until the age of 22, with the state maintaining jurisdiction. The DOC will determine what he needs at that point. It is possible that the DOC may release him before he turns 18, but that is a DOC decision.
“I really hope he does benefit from it,” Eskew said. “I believe he wants to benefit from it.”
“The whole community will be concerned when he is released,” Buckingham said.
Alison Lowery, whose daughter was in the classroom where the shooting happened, said she appreciated the judge going as far as the law allows.
“I think it’s the right decision according to what they could do,” she said after the hearing. “I think it needs to be more, but according to the laws, he did what he could. So I’m okay with that.”
Last week, court testimony revealed the teen recorded a video in his basement, hours before the shooting, warning of his plans to “take lives,” including his own. In the video, he was flashing several handguns.
The suspect’s mother testified that her son had found the keys to a gun safe in their home. He admitted he took those guns to school, went into his science classroom and shot teacher Jason Seaman and classmate Ella Whistler.
Whistler survived after being shot seven times. Seaman was shot three times. He testified last week that the teen returned to his classroom from a bathroom break and started shooting.
Seaman said he threw a mini basketball at the boy as he fired shots, and then tackled the youth and disarmed him.
According to investigators, the teen’s online history was filled with searches for school shootings. He also looked for a “blueprint” of the school.
If the teen had been charged as an adult, he would have faced 11 counts, including attempted murder and aggravated battery. But his case cannot be heard in adult court because under current Indiana law a child who is 13 can only be waived to adult court if his attempt to commit murder “is actually successful,” according to Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham.
Someone as young as 12 years old can be tried as an adult for murder, but the statute has been interpreted to not include attempted murder, he said.
Noblesville Schools issued this statement:
"The traumatic incidents of May 25, 2018 have forever changed the lives of our students, staff and community. Our sincerest hope is that this boy never hurts anyone again. We appreciate the court’s powerful comments and final decision, and recognize that it was appropriate within the limited confines of what state law will allow. We’re hopeful this will be a step towards closure and healing for the victims and our community overall."