Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County.More >>
Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County. More >>
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The court accepted the guilty pleas for Mark Stephen Foster Monday following testimony from Inskip Elementary School Assistant Principal Amy Brace who he wounded in 2010.
Principal Elisa Luna was paralyzed by the shooting and she also took the stand to describe the terrifying moments that changed her life.
Foster took a plea deal in September, pleading guilty to two counts of attempted first degree murder, two counts of employing a firearm in a dangerous felony and a felony charge of carrying a firearm on school property.
Judge Bob McGee accepted the pleas on Monday after hearing from those involved in the shootings.
The sentencing hearing will continue November 3.
Foster was a fourth grade teacher at the school when Luna and Brace told him in a meeting on February 10, 2010 that they would recommend not renewing his contract.
On the witness stand Monday, Brace testified that there was no yelling in the meeting. It was just tense.
The shootings took place in Luna's office. Brace said Foster left the meeting but then came back to confront them a short time later.
"He said (before he fired), 'The stuff they said about me, you should have listened,'" Brace told the court.
Foster's brother, Anthony Foster, sent school officials details about his brother's mental instability by email in 2009 and warned them something bad could happen. The officials opened an investigation, but said they couldn't back up the claims.
Foster shot Luna first in the back as she tried to get away.
"Elisa was curled up on the floor with her back to him. He had his gun in his right hand, and he shot her again as she lay on the floor," said Brace.
"I was praying to die because I was hurting so much," Luna told the court, explaining that the paralysis was immediate. "I couldn't feel my legs."
Foster then turned the gun on Brace. "I pushed him. We stared at each other for what seemed like a long time. Then he brought his handgun, then he shot me in the head," Brace said.
Brace says Foster stepped over her, then shot her again as he walked out the door.
Brace broke down crying on the stand when she was asked about Luna's injuries. Luna suffered a spinal injury and uses a wheelchair.
"It's absolutely awful. I mean, we laid there on the floor together for a while until the ambulance got there," Brace said.
Doctors have told Luna she won't walk again, but she told the court she has faith although she's in pain every day.
Describing what her husband is going through, Luna said. "I am definitely not a partner. It's heartbreaking."
Luna said Brace used to be fun loving, but she became withdrawn, angry and depressed after the shootings.
Teaching coach Jill Montgomery, the first person called to the stand Monday, said there were two shots, a pause and two more shots. She said two kids sitting outside Luna's office started crying and ran under a desk.
"I am still not okay," said Montgomery, who's been diagnosed with mid insomnia.
School employee Jessica Birdsong held onto the students and told the court Monday she was scared for her life.
"He knew where I was and I thought he was going to come back and shoot us," Birdsong said.
Police arrested Foster with a gun at a construction road block shortly after the shooting and described him as relatively calm at the station.
Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz issued an order Friday banning the media from recording any video, audio or taking photographs of Luna and Brace in court for Foster's sentencing.
The media challenged the order in a hearing Monday morning, but Judge McGee allowed a restricted version to stand with a ban on filming or photographing Luna.
Judge McGee said Luna filed affidavits and provided medical records showing her health would be at risk due to the stress of facing Foster while she was recorded.
Principal Luna returned to Inskip less than a year after the shootings.
Amy Brace returned to Inskip about a month and a half after the shootings. She's now assistant principal at another elementary school, Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Technology Academy.
Luna and Brace earned doctorate degrees in education from the University of Tennessee in May.