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Student To Plead Guilty in Killing

September 9, 1999

ERIE, Pa. (AP) _ A 15-year-old accused of shooting a middle school teacher to death at a dance has agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder, The Morning News of Erie reported today.

The plea would spare Andrew Wurst the possibility of a mandatory life sentence in the death of science teacher John Gillette, according to the Morning News, which cited unidentified courthouse sources.

Erie County President Judge Michael Palmisano confirmed today that a possible plea would be discussed at a hearing today. He would not give details. The hearing had been already set to review the status of the case.

``It’s worked out but it’s delicate,″ Palmisano said. ``We want to make sure it works out.″

Telephone calls to the district attorney’s office and Wurst’s defense attorney were not immediately returned.

Gillette, 48, was killed in April 1998 at a James W. Parker Middle School graduation dance at a banquet hall in Edinboro. Two students were wounded. It was one of a series of school-related shootings that shocked the nation that spring.

The teen’s lawyers have not disputed that he fired the shots, but they have said he is insane. The boy was 14 and in the eighth grade at the time of the shootings.

The trial had been scheduled to begin next month.

Besides agreeing to plead guilty to third-degree murder _ an unpremeditated killing with malice _ the teen-ager also has agreed to plead guilty to several other charges, including attempted homicide and aggravated assault, the newspaper said.

A third-degree murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years. Guilty pleas to other charges likely would add several decades to a potential sentence.

Wurst has been held in the Erie County Jail since the shooting, except for a few weeks last fall when he was sent to a state hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

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