Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Prosecutors seek tough sentence for school shooter

August 24, 2005

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— Prosecutors asked a judge in a filing Tuesday to show Rocori High School shooter Jason McLaughlin little mercy when sentencing the double murderer next week.

Alluding to the terror and pain McLaughlin's acts inflicted on an entire community, attorneys with the Minnesota Attorney General's office asked Clay County judge Michael Kirk to sentence McLaughlin to consecutive sentences for the two murders.

McLaughlin could find himself sent to prison for four decades or longer if the judge agrees with prosecutors during a sentencing hearing Aug. 30 in St. Cloud, Minn.

"Schools are supposed to be a sanctuary for children, and the terror surrounding other past shootings made it clear to all students, including the defendant, that such violence is considered by society to rank as the lowest step of depravity," prosecutor William Klumpp Jr. stated in the filing.

Kirk will sentence McLaughlin, 17, for two killings, the first-degree premeditated murder of classmate Seth Bartell and the second-degree intentional murder of Aaron Rollins.

On the first conviction, McLaughlin faces a mandatory 30-year sentence. On the second conviction, state guidelines call for a 12 1/2-year sentence, but prosecutors are pressing for a longer sentence on the second conviction. The filing doesn't request a specific sentence.

Prosecutors declined to comment further Tuesday, saying they would argue their case in front of the judge. Defense Attorney Daniel Eller did not return a call for comment. He has said that he may ask for a reduced sentence by arguing that his client was mentally ill and traumatized by teasing about his acne.

Kirk, handling the case because McLaughlin's father is a Stearns County sheriff's deputy, has blocked out the entire day to listen to statements from the family, friends and classmates of the victims before handing down a sentence.

In July, Kirk found McLaughlin guilty of Bartell's and Rollins' murders and a felony gun charge, rejecting the teen's mental illness defense that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and didn't know his actions were morally wrong. McLaughlin, 15 at the time of the attack, was tried as an adult. He waived his right to a jury trial.

On Sept. 24, 2003, McLaughlin smuggled his father's .22-caliber handgun to school in his gym bag and shot Bartell once in the back and hit Rollins in the neck with a stray bullet. McLaughlin, who later told police that Bartell teased him, followed the injured boy up a flight of stairs and fatally shot him in the forehead.

McLaughlin later told police that he planned the shootings, checking the school's security camera two days earlier and writing a goodbye e-mail to a friend.

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