Local boy gets 7 years in prison

Cary Ashby • May 8, 2013 at 11:07 PM

A Willard teenager pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting his mother in the shoulder after a dispute over online classwork nearly a year ago.

Michael E. Mason, 17, of 23 N. Main St., was sentenced the same day to seven years in prison. The term was a joint recommendation by Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler and Huron County Public Defender David Longo.

Mason pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the May 30 shooting, which caused an extensive manhunt and forced Willard City Schools to be on lockdown. As part of a plea deal, the state agreed to dismiss a firearm specification.

About May 12, Mason stole a firearm from his grandfather and "kept it around the house for a while," Leffler said.

The night of the shooting, Mason's mother home returned home from work.

"His mother had worked all night in a nursing facility," Leffler said.

Mason and mother had a conversation about the amount of time he needed to be spending on the computer for his online classes. Leffler also said Mason had logged onto the computer for short periods of time instead of the longer amount his mother wanted.

"I think she said, 'Get back to work,'" he said.

Mason, after his mother went to bed, called the land line. Leffler said the woman thought her son needed her to come into the other room.

"He plotted it to that extent," the prosecutor told the Reflector.

Mason raised the gun and shot at her as she tried to leave the room, Leffler said.

His motive for shooting his mother remains unknown. Mason didn't speak on his own behalf.

Longo said he believes Mason has some psychiatric issues that haven't been properly handled. The public defender also said the seven-year prison term tempers justice with mercy.

Mason had pleaded "not guilty by reason of insanity." A clinical psychologist at the District 5 Forensic and Diagnostic Center in Mansfield determined Mason wasn't insane at the time of the shooting.

Leffler, in court, alluded to Mason having a tough family life. However, Leffler said that shouldn't include his mother, whom he called her son's "biggest advocate."

"There is obviously some bizarre thinking in this young man," said Leffler, who told the court about a stolen vehicle incident when Mason said he thought his family was dead.

Mason's mother sat in the back of the courtroom Tuesday. She declined to speak during the hearing or be interviewed.

"This is a very serious case. She came very close to death. She has made a great recovery," Leffler said.

The boy's mother was taken to Mercy Willard Hospital and later transferred to a Toledo hospital. Leffler said she was in the hospital for a couple weeks before being released and she came back to have the bullet removed.

"It was pretty scary because the bullet tumbled close to her heart," the prosecutor said.

After the shooting, the Willard Police Department arrested Mason in the 500 block of Pearl Street. He has been incarcerated at the Seneca County Youth Center since his arrest and that time will count toward his prison sentence. After Tuesday's hearing, Mason was transported back to the Tiffin detention facility and later will be sent to prison.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway said he wasn't going to impose a fine in the case because he believes Mason "will have (his) hands full re-entering society."

The judge ruled the attorneys can enter an agreed-upon amount of restitution in a journal entry. The state didn't have an amount available Tuesday, but said a hospital charity program had paid a substantial amount of the victim's medical bills.

Mason can apply for early release after five years in prison. He will be on five years of parole after he finishes his sentence.

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