Morrissette Gets 8-12-Year Prison Sentence for Attempted Murder

An emotional Brandon Morrissette expressed remorse for bringing a gun to West Geauga High School last year with plans to kill several students as he awaited sentencing May 15 at the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas.

An emotional Brandon Morrissette expressed remorse for bringing a gun to West Geauga High School last year with plans to kill several students as he awaited sentencing May 15 at the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas.

Morrissette,19, who brought a 9mm handgun with three loaded magazines to the school last April, pleaded guilty in March to attempted murder and illegal possession of a weapon in a school zone.

Wednesday afternoon, Judge Carolyn Paschke sentenced Morrissette to serve eight to 12 years in prison and to forfeit the 9mm handgun. He will also be subject to five years of post-release control.

“I am truly and sincerely sorry for my actions. I did not mean to scare you all and I also did not intend to cause any harm to anyone whatsoever. “I only had the intention of harming myself,” Morrissette told Judge Carolyn Paschke. “However, I do take full responsibility. What I did was not right at all. “I was still having trouble processing my mother’s death from cancer and I’ve always had mental issues when it comes to depression and anxiety.”

Morrissette said he would like to continue to improve his mental health and not go back to the old person he once was.

“I want to better myself, achieve my goals and have a family, hopefully. I’m not a bad person,” Paschke told. “Please have mercy on me and please forgive me for what I’ve done.”

A Father’s Voice

With tears in his eyes, Morrissette’s father, , approached the podium prior to his son’s sentencing, to speak in support of him.

“My son is a loving, respectful young man. His mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2019. At times, we tried to keep how bad the cancer was from him. Brandon watched his mother pass away slowly from home and he turned to me to help me with my grief,” he said. “Once I visited him at the hospital after the incident, he greeted me with open arms, which were covered with knife wounds from him trying to bury his pain. When I asked him why he did what he did, he responded with, ‘I don’t want to die in the same house as Mom.’

“I still believe the reason he left that bullet in the bathroom was for someone to call the police and he can die by suicide,” he continued. “This is not an excuse for his actions, but for the court to understand that he’s a loving, respectful young man who still has hopes and dreams that have a positive impact on society.”

Defense Pleads Case

Morrissette’s attorney, Henry Hilow, reiterated Morrissette went to the school with a weapon and intention to take his own life.

“I have a young man who was self-mutilating and nobody noticed it. I have a young man that was caring for his mother who was terminally ill with cancer. When all the energies were directed toward taking care of his mother, (the) father and family still had attention on Brandon, but Brandon bottled up everything inside,” Hilow said. “This family did take efforts when they noticed there was severe depression, especially after the mother died. He changed his mind because he didn’t want his father to find him dead in the same house where his mother died. That’s when I found this gun that was in the house. What changed was when he got there, a couple of kids came up to him and he realized he had friends and a purpose. “He put the bullet by the toilet with the specific intent that he wanted someone to find him.”

Hilow talked about Morrissette’s personal growth since his arrest last year.

“He’s been involved in the programs, he’s 25 pounds heavier, medicated, thinks clearly now and has no thoughts of hurting himself and/or hurting others,” Hilow said. “He has never once offered an excuse or an explanation to say it’s really not that big of a deal. He knows what he has caused to other people, he knows the hurt he has caused to his family and he knows the fear and hurt he has caused to the community. “He knows the only way he can prove it is by life going forward.”

Prosecutor Asks for Prison Time

Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, who recommended an eight-year prison term, viewed Morrissette’s crimes much differently.

“While the defendant’s life has been tragic, we are here because he has planned to inflict unspeakable tragedy on our community. But for the actions of a student at the school, school administration and school resource officer at the time, it does appear that a tragedy would have occurred,” Flaiz said. “For all parents here, the idea of ​​getting a call that the school is on lockdown, surrounded by law enforcement, that someone brought a gun to school and you can’t contact your kid — this had an unfolding impact on our community.”

Sentence Delivered

Paschke said she understood Morrissette was grief-stricken and depressed after the loss of her mother, but that didn’t excuse her actions.

“I believe and understand that you were in a really bad place, but we did have two evaluations from two psychologists who said that you know the wrongfulness of your actions. This was not a snap spur-of-the-moment decision. The evidence demonstrates that you had a plan,” she told Morrissette. “You (pleaded) guilty of attempted murder. “Whether we believe the version that you were going to hurt yourself or whether we believe that you planned a shooting, it’s clear that you did have the intent to use that gun in the school.”

The judge said the evidence showed Morrissette had planned to carry out a school shooting.

“You may have wavered back and forth, but at least that was the plan. We know that nobody was physically hurt by your actions that day, but we can’t say that nobody was hurt. The entire community was terrorized,” she said. “It was terrifying for the students, faculty and staff. It was terrifying for their parents and families. Some of the officers that responded that day were the same ones that had to respond to (the 2012) Chardon High School (shooting). “You can’t say no harm was done to them.”

Reaction

Flaiz called Paschke’s ruling appropriate and said he was pleased with the court agreeing with his recommendation.

“There were a lot of factors in play, but it’s a long sentence. I think it accurately reflects the seriousness,” Flaiz said. “People need to understand that if you are planning these things or you take steps to carry them out, there are serious consequences. The result was good and I hope the community feels that way.”

Hilow said he appreciated everyone’s efforts on resolving the case.

“I respect the judges. It was a very difficult case and I appreciate the prosecutor’s ability to resolve it,” Hilow said. “The key is to bring closure to the community.”

 
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