Thursday, June 3, 2004

Plea averts trial

Mental illness claimed in '01 school shooting

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A Latonia woman who shot the mother of her child's classmate in a busy schoolyard in 2001 pleaded guilty earlier this week to a charge of manslaughter.

The last-minute deal ended more than two years of legal wrangling over whether Marjorie McElfresh was sane, and averted a trial that was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Assistant Kenton Commonwealth's Attorney James Redwine will recommend a sentence of 12 years. Under state law, McElfresh would serve 85 percent of the time, or more than 10 years, before being eligible for parole.

McElfresh originally was charged with assault. A grand jury increased that to murder after the victim died nearly a year after the shooting. Tuesday, McElfresh changed her plea to "guilty but mentally ill" to first-degree manslaughter.

McElfresh told Kenton Circuit Judge Greg Bartlett that "voices" were telling her the victim, Linda Gegner, was the mastermind of an imagined plot to molest her child.

Gegner was shot one time with a .380-caliber handgun in September 2001 in front of several children and teachers at Latonia Elementary School in Covington.

Defense attorneys had argued that McElfresh had been delusional for years. Court records indicate the defense was prepared to ask a jury to acquit McElfresh by reason of insanity. Two psychiatrists and two psychologists had agreed McElfresh was insane at the time.

Prosecutors said McElfresh understood her actions. McElfresh called ahead and had school officials keep her child late, according to authorities. She then showed up with a gun and shot Gegner in the school parking lot.


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