- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — 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 yesterday.

Charles McCoy Jr.’s plea would avoid a second trial. Jurors could not decide earlier this year whether Mr. McCoy was legally insane during the shootings over a five-month period in 2003 and 2004. One woman was killed.

Barring a last-minute change of heart by Mr. McCoy or prosecutors, Mr. McCoy will enter the plea today, Judge Charles Schneider said after meeting with Mr. McCoy’s attorney.

With the plea, Mr. McCoy, 29, faces decades in prison for the shootings. Judge Schneider said he will recommend that Mr. 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 that a deal had been reached but said an agreement would be discussed today. Messages seeking comment were left with Mr. McCoy’s attorneys, who have said they would not confirm anything before Mr. O’Brien does.

A mistrial was declared in May after a jury deliberated four days and took three votes on whether Mr. McCoy was legally insane, meaning that he did not understand right from wrong. The defense had acknowledged that Mr. McCoy was the shooter but argued he was not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors say that despite his mental illness, Mr. 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 an average of 77,000 vehicles a day.

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 thought firing from overpasses would stop press coverage of Michael Jackson.

However, a psychiatrist for the prosecutors said Mr. 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 Mr. McCoy’s father called him to say police wanted to test his guns, Mr. 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.

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