A teenager convicted of murder in the deaths of two classmates was not insane at the time of the shootings and will go to prison instead of a mental hospital, a judge has ruled.
The judge said it was clear John Jason McLaughlin suffered “some sort of mental impairment.” But Judge Michael Kirk added that “numerous facts laid out in this case point to the defendant knowing his actions were morally wrong.”
The judge convicted McLaughlin, now 17, of first-degree murder in the death of Seth Bartell, 14, and second-degree murder in the slaying of Aaron Rollins, 17. The two were killed in 2003 at Rocori High School in Cold Spring.
The first-degree murder conviction means a mandatory sentence of life in prison, with parole possible after 30 years. Sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 30.
“It really didn’t matter what the judge came up with,” said Tom Rollins, Aaron’s father. “It’s not going to bring either of the boys back, and we’re going to have a hole in our families for the rest of our lives.”
Prosecutors portrayed McLaughlin as a chronic liar trying to escape responsibility for his crimes. They said he had a history of lying or exaggerating his own actions to everyone from parents to school friends.
The defense, though, presented him as a paranoid schizophrenic striking out at a perceived persecutor. McLaughlin said Bartell had teased him about acne since junior high.
Defense lawyers argued that McLaughlin only meant to wound Bartell and did not mean to hurt the other student at all.
The boy shot and wounded Bartell in a hallway, then fired another shot that missed him and hit Rollins, authorities said.
Prosecutors said McLaughlin then chased Bartell up the stairs and into the gym, and shot Bartell in the forehead. He died 16 days later.