Calif. Teen Who Shot 8th Grade Classmate Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Murder

PHOTO: Lawrence King, left, and Brandon McInerney.PlayFamily handout/Ventura County Star
WATCH Teen Pleads Guilty in Gay Classmate's Death

A teen who shot and killed his eighth grade classmate in 2008 has reached a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter with use of a weapon in exchange for a 21-year prison term, which will be served in both youth facilities and prison.

Brandon McInerney, now 17, was 14 when he shot his classmate Larry King, 15, at their Oxnard, Calif., middle school. The plea deal comes ahead of what would have been McInerney's second murder trial. The second trial could have resulted in McInerney being convicted of first-degree murder and being sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Watch the original "20/20" report on Brandon McInerney and Lawrence King here.

The deal denied McInerney credit for time served, so he will end up having served a sentence of nearly 25 years. He turns 18 in January; when he is released, he will be 39. He was charged and tried as an adult.

The deal was reached despite McInerney's lawyers having argued that he was guilty of only voluntary manslaughter. They had argued also that because McInerney had just turned 14 when he shot King, he was, in the words of defense attorney Scott Weprin, "a kid who made a very bad mistake" and who should have been tried as a juvenile -- meaning he would have been free when he was age 25.

Wippert told ABC News that after McInerney's trial there was no "mechanism" to switch the case to juvenile court, a law he said needed to change.

"That aside, yes, we feel that the sentence is appropriate given the fact that he was being tried as an adult. He will be out to spend Christmas with his family when he's 38," Wippert said.

There will still be a formal sentencing of McInerney, which will take place Dec. 19. Victim impact statements will be given at that time.

Last summer, McInerney was tried for murder and a hate crime. The trial ended in a hung jury after five jurors concluded that Brandon was guilty of murder while seven voted to convict him of voluntary manslaughter. All did, however, agree that McInerney was not guilty of a hate crime.

When announcing plans for a retrial last month, the Ventura County District Attorney's Office said it would drop the hate crime charge.

The shooting took place just two days before Valentine's Day. On the morning of Feb. 12, 2008, at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, Calif., McInerney 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."

PHOTOS: Larry King and Brandon McInerney.

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.

Shortly after the shooting, McInerney 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.

According to friends and administrators, McInerney 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. McInerney 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, and most of his friends were girls.

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. 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 Larry's friend, Averi Laskey.

Larry lashed back at the bullying and his actions fueled rumors of a school-yard crush. Three years after the shooting, this past July, McInerney stood trial. There, his defense team would deliver a bombshell: Larry, they said, had been sexually harassing McInerney.

At McInerney's trial, witnesses testified that Larry blew kisses at McInerney and told him he loved him.

"He was chasing boys around school with his heels. He was touching himself," said lawyer Scott Wippert. "He was doing things that are sexual in nature that you and I would look at you as an adult and say, 'That is inappropriate.'"

Wippert said Larry sexually harassed McInerney on a daily basis.

But Laskey said Larry's bullying was motivated by revenge.

"He would not just do it for no reason," she said. "He always did it after they made him cry."

McInerney also had a troubled home life. Born to a meth-addicted mother, McInerney was sent to live with his father at age 7 -- but McInerney's life there was no better. A drug addict himself, McInerney's father went on drug-fueled rages, often beating McInerney.

The rages reportedly grew worse in the weeks leading up to the shooting. McInerney, a one-time honor student, stopped turning in his homework and was moved into a remedial English class -- the same class as Larry King.

Watch the original "20/20" report on Brandon McInerney and Lawrence King here.