Ind. teen gets 35 years for shooting classmate

August 12, 2011 - 4:00 PM

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A central Indiana judge sentenced a teenager convicted of shooting a former middle school classmate to 35 years in prison Friday.

Judge G. Thomas Gray noted 16-year-old Michael Phelps had struggled with a troubled family life and his mother's drinking but said Phelps was the sole person responsible for the March 25 shooting of 15-year-old Chance Jackson at a Martinsville school.

"You have put him in his own prison for the rest of his life," Gray said. "He will be in pain and suffering for the rest of his life."

Jackson's mother, Rebecca Jackson, said her son had undergone two emergency surgeries since he was shot twice in the abdomen and faced another surgery in November.

Phelps was convicted of attempted murder in an adult trial last month. Defense attorney Steven Litz said Friday he would appeal both the sentence and the earlier decision to try Phelps as an adult instead of a juvenile.

Gray suspended five years of the sentence and added five years probation.

Earlier in the day, a psychologist and Phelps' family members had testified about his troubled upbringing, including never knowing his biological father and coping with his mother's drinking.

But Gray said in the end, Phelps was responsible for his own actions.

"You are the one responsible. We find you here not because of a principal, not because of a guidance counselor, and not because of your mother," Gray said.

Gray noted Phelps shot Jackson twice, not just once, and that he had stolen the gun he used from a family friend's home.

Gray also said Phelps had made a shank while he was being held in jail pending trial.

"If you were a child and remorseful, you would have not made a weapon," Gray said.