Indiana school shooting suspect agrees to juvenile version of guilty plea.
The suspect in the Noblesville middle school shooting has agreed to what would be a guilty plea if his case were in adult court.
But it remains unclear how much detail about the shooting — including the motive and how the boy got the guns — will come out during a public court hearing Nov. 5 in Hamilton County Circuit Court.
Shelley Haymaker, a Noblesville-based attorney with extensive experience in juvenile cases, said it’s unusual for witnesses to be called when the facts of the case are not being contested.
She said the probation officer, defense attorney, the boy’s parents and the prosecutor typically are the ones who speak. The judge decides the disposition.
The suspect’s attorney, Christopher Eskew, said the hearing will be “pretty long” as the judge hears testimony for the purpose of determining a disposition.
“I cannot speak to who the state intends to call, and we are not making comments at this time,” Eskew told IndyStar on Thursday.
Because the case is being heard in juvenile court, the boy will not be entering a criminal guilty plea or receive a “sentencing.” Court documents call the hearing an “admission/uncontested fact-finding with disposition hearing.”
IndyStar is not naming the suspect because he is not being charged as an adult. State law governs the types of cases where juveniles can be tried as adults.
The Noblesville boy is accused of shooting a teacher and classmate the morning of May 25. If he were an adult, Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham said, the boy would have faced 11 counts, including two felony charges each of attempted murder, aggravated battery and battery by means of a deadly weapon.
Jason Seaman, a seventh-grade science teacher, was shot three times and is credited with helping to stop the attack. He was released from the hospital the following day.
The student, 13-year-old Ella Whistler, survived after being shot seven times.
Seaman and the parents of Ella Whistler did not respond by Thursday afternoon to IndyStar requests for comment.
Steve Rogers, whose son was in eighth grade during the shooting, said his son still wonders what motivated the shooter. But they aren’t lingering on the unanswered question.
“Honestly, most of the people I’ve talked to are not sitting back waiting for the court to deliberate; they are moving forward,” Rogers said. “They’re way more focused on what we can do to prevent these things in the future.”
The disposition in the case could include community service, mental health treatment, probation or placement with the Indiana Department of Correction, the juvenile system’s most severe sanction.
According to the DOC website, the state has maximum security juvenile corrections facilities at Pendleton and LaPorte. The Logansville and LaPorte facilities are what the website describes as “high medium” security. Housing is in cells.
There is also “low medium” security available with dormitory-style housing.
Court documents indicate that the suspect used a .22-caliber handgun in the shooting and also was in possession of a .45-caliber handgun and a knife.
What prompted the shooting, exactly what occurred in the classroom, and where the boy obtained the handguns is still unclear. Authorities have released few details.
Buckingham said there are certain circumstances under Indiana law in which charges against juvenile suspects can be pursued in adult court. A child as young as 12 who commits murder can be tried as an adult, but that statute has been interpreted to not include attempted murder.
Certain offenses would allow for charges against a juvenile suspect age 16 or older to be directly filed in adult court, but a suspect must be at least 14 years old to be eligible to be waived to adult court on charges of attempted murder.