CHARDON, Ohio — T.J. Lane, 17, spent his last day in Geauga County’s juvenile system listening to details of his alleged crimes as if he was just another spectator in the courtroom of Judge Timothy Grendell. The teen appeared lost in thought, occasionally breaking his stare to follow testimony as it unfolded.
Prosecutor David Joyce argued Lane’s case met the criteria for a mandatory bind over to common pleas court where adults are tried on felony charges. Joyce had to prove Lane was 17 at the time he allegedly shot three classmates to death while injuring two others; he also had to show there was probable cause to believe the teenager committed the crimes.
Chardon Patrolman John Bilicic offered critical testimony for the prosecution’s case; he found the teenager on the side of the road, sitting in the snow, shortly after the February 27 shooting at Chardon High School.
“He had a grey, long-sleeved shirt that said ‘killer’ on the front,” Bilicic told the court. He said he questioned Lane after taking him into custody.
“I gave him his Miranda rights, asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘I just killed a bunch of people,’ ” said the officer.
The patrolman also said Lane denied using drugs or alcohol, denied he was depressed or suicidal, and denied he’d been bullied or ostracized by other students. He allegedly told the officer he spent four weeks thinking about the crime before taking a gun from his uncle’s home the night before the shooting occurred.
Defense attorney Mark DeVan tried to impress upon the court that his client was suffering from mental illness.
DeVan asked Bilicic under cross-examination, “(Lane) further answered, ‘I really don’t get angry … I really don’t ever get angry, I don’t see why not,’… correct?”
“That’s correct,” responded Officer Bilicic. “And you asked, ‘Why not what?’ And (Lane) answered, ‘Why not shoot people,’ ” said DeVan.
The prosecution also showed a surveillance video of the shooting that was captured by school security cameras. Members of the media were ordered to turn off their recording equipment and they were ordered out of the courtroom as a precaution against tainting a future jury. Relatives of the five victims, who filled the jury box, also left; Lane’s grandparents remained seated for the viewing.
Lane’s attorney later asked Judge Grendell to retain jurisdiction over the case so that Lane could get treatment for his mental illness. A court psychologist testified at an earlier hearing that the teenager suffered from psychosis, heard voices, and experienced involuntary fantasies.
The judge said the law gave him no choice but to transfer Lane to common pleas court where he will be tried on three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of felonious assault.
Lane is not eligible for the death penalty because his alleged crimes were committed while he was still a juvenile.