A 17-year-old Liberty Twp. boy pleaded guilty Monday morning in Butler County Common Pleas Court to trying to kill his parents by setting fire to their house.
The trial of Mitchell Simon was slated to begin Monday with jury selection, but instead the teen pleaded guilty as charged to two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of aggravated arson. He faces a maximum of 33 years in prison — 11 years for each count — and will appear for a mitigation hearing June 10 at 9 a.m. prior to sentencing.
Simon’s defense attorney, Brad Kraemer, is expected to put a psychologist on the stand to testify during the hearing. Kraemer said the doctor will talk about how Simon “is still very much a young kid rather than a man” despite his age. Common Pleas Judge Craig Hedric is expected to hand down Simon’s sentence afterward.
Kraemer had raised questions about his client’s competency to stand trial, but after the results of a forensic psychological evaluation indicated Simon was competent, Hedric determined the trial would move forward. Kraemer had also previously filed a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea, but that was withdrawn late Friday afternoon.
Kraemer said he had every intention of taking the case to trial until Saturday afternoon. He declined to elaborate on what sparked the change of heart.
“Obviously, it has never been a question of whether he was involved in what happened, but rather what is best for him to get his life back on track,” he said.
Kraemer told the judge that Simon’s parents, Perry and Sharon Simon, “are aware of his guilty plea and do think it is in his best interest.” Simon had limited contact with his parents — who have supported their son at every court proceeding, including Monday’s plea — because of the nature of the crime.
“I have a lot of respect for two people who continue to support their son when nobody would have blamed them for not doing so,” Kraemer said. “There was never a time when they did not want to help their son.”
Simon’s parents declined comment to the Journal-News until after sentencing.
Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Muennich praised Butler County sheriff’s deputies and Liberty Township firefighters for putting out the fire, rescuing the Simons and “assuring that the situation was not worse.” Of Simon’s plea, he said, “I am really happy that he has accepted responsibility for what he did.”
According to sheriff’s detectives, on Oct. 23, Simon, then a 16-year-old junior and honors student at Lakota West High School, went to the basement of the family home, found rope left over from when he was a Boy Scout, and used it to tie his parents’ bedroom doors shut. He then retrieved a gas can from the garage and lit fires outside both rooms. Simon was allegedly angry with his parents over his laptop being taken away, according to detectives.
A journal found in the nightstand of Simon’s room near the charred second-floor bedrooms of his parents detailed the angry feelings the teen had for his parents and himself, according to testimony given during a hearing late last year in juvenile court.
Kraemer has said that his client’s actions were not specifically to harm his parents, but a cry for help.
Firefighters, detectives, a forensic psychologist and county Sheriff Richard Jones were issued subpoenas for the trial. Hedric had ordered 60 prospective jurors to report for Monday’s selection process.
By Lauren Pack - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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