Indiana boy, 13, expected to admit to May school shooting

A 13-year-old boy accused of shooting and wounding a classmate and a teacher at their suburban Indianapolis school was expected to admit during a Monday court hearing to carrying out last May’s attack.

The teen was set to appear in juvenile court for an admission/uncontested fact-finding hearing and a disposition hearing. A Hamilton County judge issued an order in September scheduling those juvenile versions of what in adult court would be a hearing on a guilty plea and a sentencing hearing.

Unlike adult sentencing hearings, however, juvenile disposition hearings focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment.

The boy is accused of shooting teacher Jason Seaman and 13-year-old classmate Ella Whistler on May 25 at Noblesville West Middle School, about 20 miles north of Indianapolis.

Whistler survived after being shot seven times, while Seaman, a seventh-grade science teacher, was shot three times.

Authorities say Seaman, a former college football player, stopped the attack by tackling the boy, who had asked to be excused from Seaman’s class and then returned with two handguns and began shooting. He allegedly fired a .22-caliber handgun, but also had a .45-caliber handgun and a knife in his possession.

The teen’s attorney, Chris Eskew, said in September that after the boy admits to carrying out the shooting, Hamilton Circuit Court Judge Paul Felix will hear testimony and arguments during the disposition hearing but likely won’t decide that day on a course of rehabilitation for the teen.

Eskew declined additional comment ahead of Monday’s hearing.

The Associated Press isn’t using the boy’s name because he’s charged as a juvenile.

If the boy had been charged as an adult, he would have faced 11 counts, including attempted murder and aggravated battery. The teen’s 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 the youngster’s alleged attempt to commit murder “is actually successful,” said Hamilton County prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham.

Someone as young as 12 can be tried as an adult for murder, but the statute has been interpreted to not include attempted murder, he said.

During Monday’s admission hearing, the boy’s attorney will likely question him only about the most basic elements of the shooting, including asking the youth if he admits to bringing the weapons into the school, and if he admits to shooting Whistler and Seaman, said Shelley Haymaker, a Noblesville attorney with experience handling juvenile cases.

The prosecutor can also ask questions during that portion, she said, but it’s highly unlikely that the boy would be asked what motivated him to commit the shootings and where he obtained the weapons.

After the judge finds the boy to be a juvenile delinquent, Haymaker said he will likely hear the probation officer’s recommendations for the boy’s rehabilitation before hearing from the defense attorney, the boy’s parents and then the prosecutor’s recommendations.

“Everybody’s in agreement with the facts. The disagreement is: What do we do with the child?” she said.

The judge’s options include ordering the boy to serve probation, to spend time in a mental health treatment center or to be held at a state juvenile detention center.

If held at a state juvenile detention center, the State Department of Correction would decide after an assessment which facility he would be held at and for how long, Haymaker said. Juveniles can be held by the state DOC until they are 21, she said.

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