Bartley pleads guilty to reduced charges in school shooting

Bartley pleads guilty to reduced charges in school shooting

Kenny Bartley, Jr. Kenny Bartley, Jr.

April 10, 2007

6 News Reporter

JACKSBORO (WATE) -- Kenny Bartley, Jr. made a surprise plea deal and received his victims' forgiveness Tuesday as jury selection was underway for his trial in the deadly 2005 shooting at Campbell County High School.

Bartley pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Assistant Principal Ken Bruce and to two counts of attempted second degree murder for Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce.

Bartley is sentenced to 25 years for Bruce's murder and two 10-year sentences for the attempted murder charges. He will serve the sentences consecutively, for a total of 45 years.

Under the deal, Bartley is eligible for parole after serving 29 years, when he's 44-years-old.

The plea deal was struck during a lunch recess after three hours of jury selection.

It accomplishes what Bartley's attorneys had planned to pursue in the trial, sentencing on reduced charges.

Since Bartley would have been tried as an adult on first degree murder charges, he could've been sentenced to life in prison, or at least to 51 years.

Bartley, Seale, Pierce and Ken Bruce's widow, Jo Bruce, were called together by the district attorney general to a meeting before the deal was announced. The victims told Bartley they forgave him for the shooting.

"I didn't talk with him at all about what he was going to say," says Bartley's attorney, Mike Hatmaker. "He said that he was very sorry for what happened. He was very sincere in that and he told the victims that he didn't mean for it to happen, which he didn't."

Hatmaker says negotiations for the plea deal began last week. On Tuesday, District Attorney General Paul Phillips agreed to parole for the attempted second degree murder charges and the deal was done.

Jo Bruce tells 6 News, "We told him we forgave him. Everyone's life has changed and will never be the same regardless of the outcome of this. But we told him we forgave him."

Jo Bruce also said she's relieved by the plea deal and feels it's a step in the right direction for Bartley to take responsibility for the shooting. She said her late husband wouldn't have wanted the county to go through a trial.

She hopes she will be able to put the events of the last year-and-a-half behind her, Jo Bruce added, but the plea deal doesn't really give her closure.

Bartley will serve his sentence at Mountainview University Development Center until he turns 18. Then he'll be transferred to a state adult prison.

If Bartley had been tried as a juvenile, he could have been released from custody at age 19.

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