Judge finds Martinsville teen guilty in school shooting

By The Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE — A central Indiana judge today found a 16-year-old boy guilty of attempted murder in the March school shooting of a former classmate after he told the court he intended to kill the other boy when he fired the shots.

Morgan Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Gray issued his verdict after a brief bench trial in which accused shooter Michael Phelps of Martinsville and victim Chance Jackson were the only two to testify.

Jackson was shot twice in the abdomen with a 9mm handgun, suffering wounds to several organs. He spent a month in the hospital, but was well enough to pay a visit to the school May 9.

Phelps testified that he intended to kill Jackson when he shot him just before classes began at the school about 30 miles south of Indianapolis. Jackson was 15 at the time.

A judge ruled in April that Phelps should stand trial as an adult on attempted murder, aggravated battery and other felony charges. Phelps waived a jury trial, and prosecutors and defense attorneys waived opening arguments at Monday’s brief hearing.

Defense attorney Steven Litz said Phelps can’t appeal the verdict but that he can appeal the decision to try him as an adult and whatever sentence is handed down.

Gray scheduled sentencing for Aug. 12.

Investigators have said there was bad blood between Chance and Phelps. Authorities said Phelps posted “today is the day” on his Facebook page shortly before the shooting.

Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said that investigators initially thought Phelps had targeted Jackson because of a dispute over a girl, but that prosecutors now believe he was more interested in gaining notoriety for a shooting at the school.

“It really turned that it wasn’t about Chance, it was about the sensationalism of a school shooting,” Sonnega said. “Chance was just a target of opportunity.”

Catherine Michael, an attorney representing Jackson’s family, said the family was “very happy with what occurred here today.

“Chance is glad to be moving forward,” she said.

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