Teen pleads no contest to murder on school bus

Saturday, August 28th 2004, 9:43 am
By: News On 6

WAGONER, Okla. (AP) _ A Porter teenager accused of fatally stabbing a classmate aboard a school bus pleaded no contest to first-degree murder Friday and was transferred to the custody of juvenile authorities.

Daniel Harley Dillingham stood silently in an orange jail jumpsuit without cuffs or shackles during his appearance in Wagoner County Juvenile Court. His attorney, Dennis Shook, entered the plea for him.

Dillingham, 16, will be sentenced Sept. 3 for allegedly stabbing Carl Andrew Robinson in the back and chest aboard a Porter High School bus Dec. 8. Dillingham was 15 at the time.

Under state law, juvenile offenders can't be held past their 19th birthday unless they fail to comply with juvenile treatment. In that case, they can be transferred to an adult prison for no more than 10 years.

``He needs to be buried in prison,'' said Daymond Hardin, Robinson's stepfather. ``If he wasn't a kid, he should've gotten the death penalty. They're going to let him out in three years.''

Special Judge Sandy Crosslin ordered the Office of Juvenile Affairs to take immediate custody of Dillingham. But he will remain in the Wagoner County Jail, segregated from other inmates, until a bed opens at the state's only maximum security juvenile facility.

Robinson, 16, died on the bus while Dillingham fled out the emergency exit in the back, only to be captured later in rural Wagoner County. Dillingham told investigators he was tired of Robinson's bullying.

Dillingham was originally certified to stand trial as an adult, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed that ruling in June, sending the boy to juvenile court.

Defense psychologists say Dillingham suffers from depression and may be developing schizophrenia. The defense has argued that he needs the counseling provided in the juvenile system rather than punishment in adult prison.

``Everyone believes it's in the best interest of Daniel Dillingham that he get treatment as soon as possible,'' Shook said.

District Attorney Richard Gray objected to the no contest plea, arguing that Dillingham should have had to plead guilty and admit what he'd done. A no contest plea contains neither a claim of innocence nor an admission of guilt.

But Crosslin said she would accept the no contest plea ``for the sake of moving this case forward.''

Dillingham has pleaded innocent twice previously, shortly after his arrest and on July 12 after returning to juvenile court.

Crosslin ordered that Dillingham be housed at the Lloyd E. Rader Center in Sand Springs. State and federal authorities are investigating treatment of Rader residents, and the center's superintendent was demoted and replaced last month amid an increase in violence at the 215-bed facility.

In response to the violence, the juvenile affairs office is opening a separate unit at Rader to segregate violent and noncompliant inmates from the rest of the population.