Re: UPDATE: Sam Shelton,Ex-Teacher Guilty of Trying to Kill Teen

Here's more, from the Belleville [IL] News-Democrat--


Former Freeburg teacher and pro wrestler Samson "Sam" Shelton was
sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty Friday to trying
to kill teenager Ashley Reeves.

After entering his guilty plea, Shelton declined to address the court,
Reeves or her parents, who were sitting in the last row in the

"I'm glad it's over with," Reeves said. "I can get on with my life."

Reeves said she believes the sentence was fair. Asked whether she was
surprised Shelton did not apologize, she said, "No, I wasn't. I didn't
expect him to."

Reeves is 18 and said she plans to go to college. While she is still
in therapy two days per week, her speech and walking have steadily
improved since April 29, 2006, when police found her unconscious and
barely breathing in the undergrowth of a Belleville park.

"I'm just hoping to keep getting better," she said.

Shelton is now 27 and would be 44 were he to get out after serving at
least 85 percent of this sentence. Credit for good behavior will put
him out of prison in 17 years, to be followed by three years of
mandatory supervised release.

"He's saved himself a great deal of his life to be a free man,"
Shelton's attorney Clyde Kuehn said.

Yet his time behind bars could still increase. The plea deal on Friday
does not cover the charges that Shelton attacked deputies and medical
workers after he tried to commit suicide May 8.

Kuehn said media attention in the case and the videotapes of Shelton's
police interrogation, during which he confessed to assaulting Reeves
before leading them to her nearly lifeless body, would have made it
nearly impossible to win an acquittal in a jury trial. Shelton was a
high school teacher who claimed he attacked Reeves after trying to end
his relationship with the then-17-year-old girl.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida said his office agreed
to the plea bargain, in part, so that Reeves can get on with her life.
He called the sentence appropriate and significant.

"Ashley needed to have some peace," Haida said.

Haida said the plea agreement "gives us a substantial sentence and
sends a message that when individuals do serious harm to innocent
victims, they are going to do serious time."

"It's an appropriate sentence, it's a significant sentence."

A bearded Shelton appeared before St. Clair County Circuit Judge
Milton Wharton wearing an orange St. Clair County jail jumpsuit in
handcuffs and leg shackles.

Wharton read the attempted first-degree murder charge against Shelton
including that he "knowingly placed a belt around the neck of Ashley
Reeves and repeatedly strangled Ashley Reeves."

If convicted by a jury, Shelton could have received a sentence of
between six and 30 years and a $25,000 fine, Wharton said.

Shelton responded in a clear, strong voice each time Wharton asked him
a question.

Ashley Reeves' mother, Michelle Reeves, thanked police, prosecutors
and others for their help.

"We'd just kind of like to go back to a simple, quiet life," she said.

Susan Shelton, Sam Shelton's mother, said the media's "demonization"
of her son made it clear he could not have received a fair trial.

"Sam's family and friends know the incident with Miss Reeves was an
accident, but we reluctantly support Sam's decision to plead guilty,"
she said, reading a prepared statement.

She added, "I realize that he hurt her, he thought she was dead and he
tried to cover that up." But she contended that Shelton's actions did
not constitute attempted murder.

When asked whether she was disappointed her son did not apologize,
Susan Shelton said, "Not in this case. No."

Susan Shelton also criticized the St. Clair County Sheriff's
Department, claiming deputies took credit for saving her son's life
during a suicide attempt at their home last month.

"That is not true. They Tasered him time after time. He couldn't stand
up. He couldn't reason on his own," she said.

Haida said Shelton was shocked with a Taser, but the deputies were
justified in using the weapon to disable him because he was combative.

Shelton entered his guilty plea after the prosecution and the defense
accepted psychologist Dan Cuneo's finding that Shelton was mentally
fit to stand trial.

Kuehn, who had asked the court to include a determination of Shelton's
sanity during the attack on Reeves, dropped his request in light of
the plea agreement. Kuehn said he approached prosecutors about a plea
deal after Shelton's suicide attempt.

"I think he's strangely at peace to have it over with," Kuehn said in
describing Shelton's state of mind. "His demeanor since he's made the
decision has been one of complete acceptance, and you don't usually
see that. People who (plead guilty) usually go away whining."

Shelton also pleaded not guilty to aggravated battery charges pending
against him. Prosecutors said he attacked deputies and medical
technicians who tried to revive him May 8 after the suicide attempt.
He is accused of kicking a St. Elizabeth's Hospital nurse in the face
and spitting on a deputy who was guarding him after the suicide
attempt. He has been charged with six felony counts of aggravated
assault in connection with the attacks, which each could carry
sentences of two to five years.

Haida said his office will prosecute Shelton on the felony charges,
and if convicted, Shelton will serve those sentences after completing
the attempted murder sentence.

"We can defend those," Kuehn said. "Most of that conduct took place
when he was being saved from an overdose of drugs."

Shelton will not remain in the county jail to face the assault
charges, Haida said. He soon will be sent to Chester, where the state
prison system intake facility is located for this area. There he will
be evaluated to determine whether he belongs in the general prison
population or whether his mental state warrants other care.

There was one surprising moment during the 35-minute proceeding
Friday. When Wharton asked whether anyone had tried to threaten or
intimidate him into pleading guilty, Shelton said Michelle Reeves'
sister had threatened his neighbor. But Shelton apparently misheard
the judge and when asked again, he said no one had tried to coerce him
into accepting a plea.

Deputies found Reeves in the early hours of April 29, 2006, in dense
underbrush at Citizens Park in Belleville. She was flown in critical
condition to a St. Louis hospital and is still undergoing
rehabilitative therapy at home.

In a videotaped statement given to police, Shelton eventually
confessed to assaulting Reeves, then led investigators to where he hid
the unconscious Reeves in the park. Shelton told Sheriff's Lt. Steve
Johnson that he argued with Reeves.

During a struggle as he tried to pull her out of his car, he said he
heard her neck pop. He said he then took her to the park, and
attempted to strangle her three times.

Contact reporter Lisa P. White at lwhite; or 239-2460.

Anne, indigoace at goodsol period com

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