Teen sentenced to 50 years to life for deadly California school shooting

Friday, August 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) _ A 16-year-old boy sentenced to at least 50 years in prison for a shooting at his high school said he still can't explain why he ``spilled over'' with rage, killing two students and wounding 13 other people.

In his first public statement since the March 5, 2001, shooting, Charles ``Andy'' Williams made a tearful apology Thursday before a courtroom packed with victims.

``For what it's worth, I want everybody to know that I'm sorry,'' the teenager said through sobs. ``I feel horrible about what happened.''

Williams was given to 50 years to life, the minimum allowable sentence. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 425 years.

At a candlelight vigil attended Thursday night by about a dozen of the boy's supporters, the defendant's 65-year-old grandfather, Chuck Williams, expressed disappointment.

``Fifty years or 150 years, to us, it's the same thing,'' he said. Many at the vigil felt Williams, 15 when he opened fire, should not have been tried as an adult.

Judge Herbert Exarhos said the youth was teased and bullied and had a difficult home life. But the judge added that those are problems faced by many young people who do not become violent.

``Many of you have come here today to seek an answer to the question 'Why?' Sadly the answer to that question appears not to be forthcoming,'' Exarhos said. ``In all likelihood, it is a question the defendant will be struggling daily to answer for himself.''

In a signed statement released Thursday by the judge, Williams said he was pushed around by friends from a neighborhood skateboard park. His feelings built up, he said, ``like a cup filling up inside me.''

Finally, the cup ``spilled over,'' Williams wrote, and he began talking with friends about bringing guns to school.

``I had this sick thought if I shot up the school it would some way show kids that I could stand up for myself,'' he said.

Williams pleaded guilty in June to two counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. He will be held at a youth detention center until he turns 18, at which point he will likely be sent to a maximum security prison.

The sentencing came after an emotional day of statements from victims of the assault at the 2,000-student campus east of San Diego.

Williams lowered his head and stared into his lap as classmate after classmate recalled the moments of panic, terror and desperation during the shooting and its aftermath of grief and trauma.

Mari Gordon Rayborn, the mother of slain student Randy Gordon, showed the judge a photo of his grave.

``My family does not get to see Randy, see his smile, hear his voice, watch him graduate, go to college or succeed in the Navy, grow old, get married and have children,'' said Rayborn, 34. ``The cemetery is where we visit Randy.''

The attack, which came nearly two years after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, was the first of two shootings in two weeks at schools in San Diego suburbs.

On March 22, 2001, Jason Hoffman, a student with a history of mental illness, wounded five people at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault, then hanged himself in jail. He was 18.