Teen School Shooter Gets 50 Years

S A N   D I E G O, Aug. 15, 2002 -- A San Diego judge today sentenced tearful school shooter Charles "Andy" Williams to 50 years to life in prison, the minimum possible term.

Williams had faced a possible sentence of up to 425 years in prison for his deadly rampage at Santana High School in March 2001.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Herbert Exarhos said a longer term would be tantamount to life imprisonment, a sentence he said he could not impose. He also noted that Williams had expressed remorse.

During the sentencing hearing in a San Diego courtroom, the teen offered a broken apology for his actions as family members of his victims came forward to urge a judge to keep him in prison forever.

"I feel horrible about …" he said in a brief apology before his voice trailed off in sobs, looking larger and more mature than the skinny 15-year-old pictured at the time of his arrest. He said he wished he had never gotten out of bed on the day of the shooting.

"It really hurts me… I'm responsible for… for all this stuff," he said.

Williams pleaded guilty in June to charges of murder and attempted murder in the March 5, 2001, shooting spree at Santana High School in Santee, Calif. Two teens, Bryan Zuckor, 14, and Randy Gordon, 17, were killed and 13 other people were wounded in the shooting spree.

His Freedom Should Be Taken Forever'

Deputy District Attorney Kristin Anton has argued only the maximum sentence would reflect the pain the teen had inflicted on the community.

"His freedom should be taken away forever," she said. She rejected claims that Williams had been driven to violence by abuse and ridicule from his schoolmates.

One of Williams' victims, Ray Serrato, told the court he had forgiven his schoolmate, but urged Exarhos to give him more than the minimum sentence.

"Fifty years is not enough," said Serrato, who still has a bullet lodged in his back from the incident.

Karla Leyva was wounded in her finger during the incident, but said that the emotional scars of the shooting are still with her.

"In my mind any noise that comes, I could think well, maybe it's just a different gun," she said.

Father Hopes for 60 Years

Williams' father, Jeff, had earlier told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he hoped his son would get a chance to do something good with his life.

"I hope the judge will find a sentence somewhere in between so Andy will have a chance to get out of prison 60, 70 years down the road from now," Jeff Williams said.

"He's very remorseful," the older Williams said. "He expresses his remorse almost on daily basis. He has nightmares about what happened."

Lonely and Bullied, His Father Claims

Williams' rampage spread fear through the suburban community and prompted a national debate about what causes youth violence.

His friends portrayed Williams as a lonely, shy kid who felt isolated and bullied by other students. Williams and his father had moved to Santee from Brunswick, Md., and the one-time honor student felt that he didn't fit in, friends said.

Williams' parents divorced when he was very young and neighbors in Santee said the boy often seemed lonely.

Jeff Williams said his son was teased and bullied by other students at Santana High School.

"They would jump him, beat him up," the father said. "The kids who would smoke, they would turn their cigarette lighters on, get them hot and they would surround him and press them on his skin and burn him."

Twenty different people confirmed to ABCNEWS that neighborhood teens used to regularly beat up or humiliate Andy Williams.

Some of the students who hung out with the troubled teen said they remember him talking about "pulling a Columbine," a reference to a deadly 1999 school shooting in in Littleton, Colo.

Williams' former pee-wee football coach, Gary Strakonsky, told ABCNEWS the boy he knew changed after moving to California. "I remember this bright, smiley-faced kid from Maryland. His demeanor seemed to change a little bit when I first met him out here," he said

Jeff Williams said his son became depressed after the move. "He was missing his mom," the father said. "He was getting tired of the emotional and verbal abuse."