Inskip Elementary School shooter gets 56 years in prison

Inskip Elementary School shooter gets 56 years in prison

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Mark Stephen Foster Mark Stephen Foster

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Mark Stephen Foster was sentenced Thursday to 56 years for shooting and wounding two Inskip Elementary School administrators in 2010.

Before pronouncing his decision, Judge Bob McGee said the maximum sentence is justified in each shooting and Foster shouldn't get less time because the wounds to then-Assistant Principal Amy Brace were less serious.

However, the judge also said the court can't ignore Foster's history of mental illness so he gave him some concurrent sentences. That removed eight years from the maximum for a total of 56 years.

Foster will be eligible for parole after he serves 30 percent of his sentence.

He was a fourth grade teacher at Inskip when he shot Brace and Principal Elisa Luna at close range in Luna's office shortly after a meeting when they told him they would not recommend renewing his contract.

Luna has to use a wheelchair as a result of her injuries.

Earlier in the hearing Thursday, Foster made a plea to the judge to lessen his sentence. "Let me start by saying, I'm glad no one died."

He and his lawyer, Robert Kurtz, described his life as laced with physical and mental abuse. "My history of mental illness started when I was a child," Foster said.

He also said because of his history with mental instability, he'd had 20 jobs in the 10 years, leading up to his stint at Inskip.

When his teaching job wasn't working out, "It was a breaking point in his life," Foster said. "I decided that if my contract was not renewed, I would kill myself."

"I apologize to the victims and their families, and I also apologize to Inskip students and their families," Foster said.

Prosecutor Leslie Nassios argued that abuse and mental illness were no excuse for the shootings.

"I think he weighed the risk. He was willing to go to prison forever and he accepted that because he was at the end of his rope," Nassios said.

The state also brought up the irreparable mental and physical trauma the victims will have for the rest of their lives, as well as the impact on the school community.

"This was a retaliatory act, and he took it out on two people not even responsible for this decision," Nassios said.

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 McGee accepted those pleas in October after hearing testimony from Brace and Luna, along with others who were at the scene.

Luna continues to serve as principal of Inskip Elementary.

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.

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