COLUMBUS, Ohio – The mentally ill man who admitted committing a series of highway shootings that terrorized central Ohio has agreed to drop his insanity defense and plead guilty, a judge said Monday.
Charles McCoy Jr.'s (search) plea would avoid a second trial. Jurors could not decide earlier this year whether McCoy was legally insane during the shootings, which happened over five months in 2003 and 2004 mostly around Interstate 270 (search). One woman was killed.
Barring a last-minute change of heart by McCoy or prosecutors, McCoy will enter the plea Tuesday afternoon, Judge Charles Schneider (search) said after meeting with McCoy's attorney Monday.
With the plea, McCoy, 29, faces decades in prison for the shootings. Schneider said he will recommend that McCoy be ordered to serve his sentence in a prison mental health wing so he can be treated for his paranoid schizophrenia.
Gail Knisley, 62, died Nov. 25, 2003, while a friend was driving her to a doctor's appointment.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien refused to confirm a deal had been reached but said an agreement would be discussed Tuesday. Messages seeking comment were left with McCoy's attorneys, who have said they would not confirm anything before O'Brien does.
A mistrial was declared in May after a jury deliberated four days and took three votes on whether McCoy was legally insane, meaning he did not understand right from wrong. The defense had acknowledged McCoy was the shooter but argued he was innocent by reason of insanity. Prosecutors say that despite his mental illness, McCoy knew right from wrong.
The 24-count indictment had included a possible death sentence. After the mistrial was declared, prosecutors had said they did not plan to seek the death penalty in the second trial.
The shootings frightened commuters and residents for months as bullets struck vehicles and houses at different spots along or near Interstate 270, which encircles Columbus and accommodates about 77,000 vehicles a day on average.
During the trial, a psychiatrist for the defense said McCoy was desperate to rid himself of humiliating voices in his head that called him a "wimp" for not standing up to mocking from television programs and commercials.
Toward the end of the shootings, he believed firing from overpasses would make news coverage of Michael Jackson stop.
However, a psychiatrist for the prosecutors said McCoy showed he knew his actions were wrong by the steps he took to avoid capture, such as shooting in other counties when police and publicity focused on the Columbus area.
When McCoy's father called him to say police wanted to test his guns, McCoy gave permission, then drove 36 hours straight to Las Vegas. However, he didn't change his license plates -- while the number was being broadcast nationwide -- and was captured there.