Teen Gets 42 Years In Prison In Indiana Highway Sniper Shootings

Thursday, December 27th 2007, 9:11 pm
By: News On 6

BROWNSTOWN, Ind. (AP) _ A teenager who pleaded guilty to killing one man and wounding another in a series of 2006 Indiana highway sniper shootings was sentenced Thursday to 42 years in prison.

Defense attorneys tried to portray 18-year-old Zachariah Blanton as troubled and the victim of teasing, but the judge said his emotional problems were no excuse for killing someone he had never met.

Prosecutors said Blanton fired his hunting rifle into Interstate 65 traffic on July 23, 2006, from an overpass about 60 miles south of Indianapolis, killing 40-year-old Jerry L. Ross of New Albany. An Iowa man traveling in another pickup truck also was injured.

Defense attorneys had said Blanton fired at a white pickup truck carrying Ross in anger after an emotional clash with other family members during a deer hunt. But Ross had nothing to do with what happened during the hunt, said Jackson Circuit Judge William Vance.

``Jerry Ross had never done anything to you, and you killed him,'' he said.

Blanton had faced trial on charges of murder, attempted murder and criminal recklessness. But he pleaded guilty earlier this month to lesser charges of voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness.

Ross' family members said they were disappointed with the plea deal and had hoped Blanton would face the murder charge and receive a longer sentence.

``It'll never be enough,'' said Ross' sister in law, Lisa Ross.

She added: ``We'll never see Jerry again. We'll never talk to Jerry again. How do you ever close that?''