A teen who shot and killed his eighth grade classmate in 2008 will be retried for first-degree murder in California.
The first murder trial of Brandon McInerney, who was 14 when he shot Larry King, 15, at their Oxnard, Calif. middle school, ended in a hung jury last month.
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The Ventura County District Attorney's Office announced today that Brandon, now 17, will be tried as an adult, as he was in his first trial, despite his lawyer's arguments that juvenile court would be a better fit for the case. If convicted in juvenile court, McInerney likely would have faced a shorter sentence and would have been released by age 25. If convicted as an adult, Brandon could face a life sentence.
The shooting took place just two days before Valentine's Day, when an eighth-grade English classroom suddenly became a crime scene.
On the morning of Feb. 12, 2008, at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, Calif., Brandon did something unexpected: He sat down behind Larry.
"We had been working on a paper in the computer lab," said teacher Dawn Boldrin. "And I remember hearing a pop."
She quickly turned and her eyes immediately locked on Brandon, who was standing, holding a .22 caliber handgun.
"I asked him what the hell he was doing," she said. "And he looked at me."
Then, she said, he pulled the trigger again, dropped the gun and walked out the door.
Chaos ensued. Boldrin scrambled to get the other students into another classroom and to safety when she suddenly realized who was left behind.
"Larry's in there! That's when it clicked. I knew who he shot. And I was screaming, 'It's Larry, we need to get back to Larry,'" she remembered.
Following school procedure, everyone had to remain behind locked doors, because no one knew what the shooter might do.
Shortly after the shooting, Brandon was picked up by police just a few blocks away from the school and was immediately charged as an adult with murder. Larry had been rushed to the hospital, but two days later, he was taken off life support and died on Valentine's Day.
News of the shooting quickly spread, and motives began to emerge. Media outlets reported that Brandon had killed Larry "allegedly because he identified himself as gay." Those who knew Brandon said he was not a violent kid, so what could have driven a 14-year-old to commit such a crime?
According to friends and administrators, Brandon and Larry seemed to have been on a collision course.
"It wasn't a perfect storm, but it was a storm," Boldrin said.
On the surface, the kids seemed to be polar opposites. Brandon was described as a typical eighth-grade boy, a jock. He was tall, athletic and popular. Boldrin said he was not a misfit by any means and above all he was respectful.
Larry, on the other hand, was short, slight and emotionally immature -- an eighth grader who teachers said read at a third-grade level. He was also described as effeminate.
"He was soft-spoken," said Boldrin. "You wouldn't have looked at him and go, "Oh, he's outwardly gay or something."
But most of Larry's friends were girls, including Averi Laskey, his best friend since the third grade.
"He wanted to be himself. He didn't want to follow in other people's footsteps," she said.
Larry had a troubled background. Born to a crack-addicted mother, he was adopted but later removed from his adoptive home and put into foster care.
Shortly after that, Larry started showing up to school wearing girls' clothes, makeup and four-inch heels.
"He wanted to see what it was like on the other side." said Averi. "He liked the way he felt when he was pretty."
Students and teachers had no idea how to react.
"Larry wasn't doing anything that was against the rules," said Boldrin. "He was dressed, using jewelry, using make-up, in a way that a girl would have been able to."
Larry's behavior made him a target for bullying so Boldrin decided to do something nice for him: She secretly gave him her daughter's green prom dress.
"I bagged it up and before school, very privately, I gave it to him," Boldrin said. "I told him to enjoy it. Have fun."
Boldrin said she saw Larry experiencing something that happens in schools across the country: children tormented for being different.
Friends said there was somebody who was particularly "disgusted" by Larry's "flamboyant behavior": Brandon McInerney.
"He would say, 'Well, I'll get you later. I'm gonna hurt you,'" said Averi.
Larry lashed back at the bullying and his actions fueled rumors of a school-yard crush. Three years after the shooting, this past July, Brandon stood trial. There, his defense team would deliver a bombshell: Larry had been sexually harassing Brandon. So who was bullying whom?
The jury in the case ultimately couldn't reach agreement on a verdict. Five jurors believed that Brandon was guilty of murder while seven voted to convict him of voluntary manslaughter.
All did, however, agree on one thing -- that Brandon was not guilty of a hate crime.
The Ventura County District Attorney's Office said today that they would not retry Brandon on the hate crime charge.