Felipe Villanueva, Jr., 14, Wauseon, was sentenced to house arrest for his role in the Wednesday, March 14 accidental shooting death of Michael J. Schwartz, 13, Wauseon.
Villanueva was charged with juvenile delinquency by way of negligent homicide, after the incident.
On the morning of the shooting, Villanueva, Schwartz, and a third unidentified boy of about the same age went to the unidentified boy’s home at 444 Howard Avenue in Wauseon. The three boys were alone in the house when Schwartz received a single shotgun wound to the chest. He died later at Fulton County Health Center.
Wauseon police were first called to a report of a "drive-by shooting" about 6:55 am. They determined there was no drive-by, but that the shooting occurred in the house.
In a disposition hearing in Fulton County Juvenile Court on Thursday, April 12, Michael Bumb, juvenile court judge, removed the boy from his mother’s home in Wauseon and placed him with an aunt and uncle in West Unity.
During the hearing, Villanueva, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, gray sweatshirt and socks, and plastic flip-flops, sat silently next to his lawyer with his head down, rarely looking up.
Both Schwartz’s mother and grandmother read from prepared statements. The grandmother told the boy what happened was not an accident; that when he pointed the gun at Schwartz, he was guilty of murder. She said she had a lot of anger at Villanueva, adding that she could never forgive him.
Schwartz’s mother told Villanueva what happened "was plain stupidity on your part," and that he had "given me a life sentence of sadness."
She told the boy that he cries not for Michael’s loss, but because "you are a scared kid, scared at what will happen to you."
The juvenile court’s maximum sentence of 90 days was not appropriate, she said, because it tells society, "you can kill, and get away with it with a slap on the wrist."
At the same time, she told Villanueva that she forgave him.
Christina McVay, a counselor at the Northwest Ohio Juvenile Detention, Training, and Rehabilitation Center, told the court she worked with Villanueva; first, to get him adjusted to being in jail, then to deal with the shock and grief of the incident.
She said he suffered from nightmares and depression, but added he had recently been taken off suicide watch.
Villanueva’s mother read from eight letters she had received from her son’s teachers at Wauseon Middle School. All cast him as a polite, respectful, soft-spoken boy who was a good student, well-liked by his peers.
Villanueva’s lawyer, Clayton Gerbitz, told members of Schwartz’s family in the courtroom that he was sorry for their loss, adding he could only imagine the pain and grief they were feeling.
He called the shooting "a monumental tragedy, a monumental accident."
Pursuing an accident theme, Gerbitz noted the official incident report referred to the shooting as an accident 10 times, and said articles from a regional newspaper used the word accident 12 times.
He noted one judge’s opposition to the "negligent" clause of Ohio law, saying any mistake or lapse of judgment could make a person negligent, and therefore, a criminal.
Gerbitz said boys age 13 and 14 "walk around in a state of negligence. That’s why they’re 13- and 14 year-olds. They can’t make a correct decision."
He said he has a 13-year-old son, which is why, "I don’t leave a loaded gun on the kitchen table, or throw him the keys and tell him to go get his aunt in Cleveland."
At the end of his presentation, Gerbitz played a video recorded by Wauseon police soon after the shooting. In it, Villanueva is left alone in a room; within a minute, he is crying and calling for his mother.
In giving his disposition, Bumb called the incident "an absolute tragedy in so many ways."
He noted Ohio law calls on juvenile court judges to do many things, including, "restore the victim."
He said he would "ignore that, in sad recognition that there is nothing the court can do" to restore Michael Schwartz.
Bumb sentenced Villanueva to 90 days in juvenile detention, crediting him with the 30 days he had served, but said he would suspend any remaining time at a later date.
He removed Villanueva from the custody of his mother and placed him in the custody of the aunt and uncle.
Villanueva was then placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring. Electronic monitoring places an electronic bracelet around the boy’s ankle. It alerts authorities anytime he leaves a certain area.
He will remain on house arrest "until further (court) orders."
Bumb said Villanueva may only leave his aunt and uncle’s home for counseling, medical matters, and probation issues. He will continue his education via the Internet. The Wauseon school district was ordered to pay the cost of his education.
Both his home and his mother’s home must be inspected for firearms. No firearms are permitted in either house.
Villanueva may not obtain a driver license until he reaches the age of 21.
The boy was placed on "intensive probation" and ordered to continue counseling.
Bumb told the boy’s aunt, who was in the courtroom, that Villanueva "will be with you for the foreseeable future."–posted 4.12, 7 pm