Teen pleads guilty to 2008 murder of Central High student

Teen pleads guilty to 2008 murder of Central High student

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Jamar Siler Jamar Siler

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville teen pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to lesser charges in the shooting and killing of a fellow student at Central High School in 2008.

Jamar B. Siler, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, admitted to murdering Ryan McDonald in the school's cafeteria. McDonald was also 15.

The shooting happened before classes started on August 21, 2008, following an argument between the two students.

Following his guilty plea for second degree murder, Siler was sentenced by Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz to 30 years in prison.

Siler had been scheduled to go on trial on December 5 after several delays in the proceedings. The judge ruled he would be tried as an adult.

McDonald's family agreed to the plea deal less than 24 hours earlier. "We figured a sure thing is better than a gamble and nothing at all," said Ryan's uncle, Roger McDonald.

Siler was facing the possibility of life in prison for first degree murder and a lengthy trial that would have been painful for Ryan's family.

"I knew they would talk about things that happened that day, things leading up to that day. I've not seen it, but I know there is some video of the actual shooting. I don't know how good it was, but I was worried we'd have to watch that," Roger McDonald said.

Although he feels agreeing to the plea deal was the right decision, Roger McDonald says he still has mixed emotions about whether justice is being served.

"You know you struggle with that life or death, eye for an eye thing. You would hope that your faith, you know, you're supposed to forgive, but it's hard. It's really hard," he said.

It's also hard to hate the killer, Roger McDonald says. "It was two fifteen-year-old kids whose life was ruined that day. The unfortunate thing for us is, it was my nephew that was shot and killed. Now he (Siler) has to live with that for the rest of his life. I just don't know if it bothers him or affects him or not."

So the guilty plea falls short of closure. "We still don't have him, you know. So you think about him. You go to bed and you think about him," Roger McDonald said.

Siler's attorney said his client suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, which impaired his judgment.

In 2009, Siler and another inmate of the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Detention Center in Knoxville escaped from that facility. They were apprehended about an hour-and-a-half later.

The Knox County District Attorney General's Office says Siler will have to serve at least 85 -percent of his sentence before he's eligible for parole.

Ryan McDonald's family is trying to keep his memory alive by having an annual toy drive in his honor. Toys are being collected outside area Ingle's stores. The donations will be given to kids through the Helen Ross McNabb Center and Child and Family of Tennessee.

 6 News Reporter Erica Estep contributed to this report.

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