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Ohio town remembers 3 killed by teen 1 year ago

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[February 27, 2013]  CHARDON, Ohio (AP) -- A northeast Ohio school where three students were gunned down a year ago marked the anniversary with hugs and messages of support from the close-knit community.

Adam Benjamin, a senior class leader at Chardon High School east of Cleveland, says students upset during Wednesday's anniversary could count on strong community support. Principal Andy Fetchik says he has plenty of hugs to share.

They spoke before a daylong program of service activities began marking the killing of three students and wounding of three others on Feb. 27, 2012.

The observances came one day after the gunman pleaded guilty in the deaths.

Students arriving for classes passed a school sign with the names of victims.

T.J. Lane, now 18, pleaded guilty and could get life in prison at sentencing March 19.


AP's earlier story is below.


One day after the gunman at their northeast Ohio school pleaded guilty, students at Chardon High School are marking the one-year anniversary of their schoolmates' deaths with a memorial walk to the town's picturesque square.

Chardon High School, east of Cleveland, organized the observance Wednesday to remember Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, who were killed in the Feb. 27, 2012, rampage.

T.J. Lane, 18, on Tuesday withdrew a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and pleaded guilty to charges in the case. He could get life in prison when he is sentenced March 19.

Lane pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault. Charged as an adult, Lane cannot get the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the crimes.

"We're just very glad it's not going to trial," said Daniel's father, Bob Parmertor, as he left the courthouse in the rain with family members.

Parmertor told The Associated Press he felt justice would be done if Lane "will never see daylight again" outside prison.

The one-year anniversary of the students' deaths sadly marks another year of mass shootings around the country that shocked the nation -- 12 people gunned down at a Colorado movie theater; six killed at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin; and 26 Connecticut first-graders and educators slain in Newtown during the Christmas season.

Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz said the plea resulted in the same outcome he wanted from a trial. Families of the victims agreed that Lane should face life in prison, he said. Two wounded survivors and parents of most of the victims watched the court proceeding.

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But left unanswered was the motive. Flaiz said he was prepared to present a motive at trial but he declined to elaborate on it Tuesday. He said a psychiatric evaluation showed Lane has above-average intelligence and was able to understand the case against him and assist his attorneys in his defense.

Lane appeared in court dressed in a green open-collar shirt and dark slacks. His once-shaggy hair was cut short. He held up his head and displayed no emotion as he answered the judge's questions with "yes, your honor."

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's family left the court with deputies and sent word through Lane's attorneys that they didn't want to talk to the media.

After court, Lane's attorney said his client was determined to take responsibility.

"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."

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 and fired 10 shots at students in the high school cafeteria. Lane was there waiting for a bus to an alternative school he attended.

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.

The judge Tuesday accepted a report finding Lane mentally competent to stand trial.

Both the defense and the prosecution had sought court-ordered psychiatric testing for Lane.

Asked about the hallucinations, the prosecutor responded: "It is our position that those never occurred."

[Associated Press; By THOMAS J. SHEERAN]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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