(CHARDON, Ohio) — Chardon school shooter TJ Lane likely got up in the middle of the night before his sentencing to scrawl the word “killer” across a prison T-shirt, a brazen move that shocked his attorney, victims’ families and even the judge, according to the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office.
After the convicted killer arrived in court for his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, he unbuttoned his blue button down shirt to reveal the T-shirt. There were gasps in the courtroom.
Shortly after, Lane, 18, spewed vile and unprintable words at the families of three students he killed, gave them the finger and then laughed and smiled as they described him as an animal and a monster.
Lt. John Hiscox, Jr. of the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office said that inmates at the jail are allowed to have three t-shirts, underwear and socks in their room. They also have pliable rubber pens for writing letters and filling out commissary forms.
“What the sheriff thinks happened is in the middle of the night, prior to him going up to court, he had taken one of his T-shirts and wrote the word on it, put the T-shirt on under his jail uniform,” Hiscox said.
Inmates wear street clothes to hearings, Hiscox said, so Lane’s clothes were brought to the jail, checked and put in a changing room.
“Then they’re patted down as they’re being put in the back of the cruiser, but no one would have seen the writing on the shirt because it’s already now concealed under his shirt for court,” the lieutenant said. “Everybody in the whole courtroom was completely taken aback by that. No one in a million years would have guessed that that would happen.”
Hiscox said that the shirt and Lane’s statement both showed a “total disrespect” for the victims and their families.
“It was probably one of the ugliest things I’ve ever witnessed,” he said.
Lane was waiting for a bus to an alternative school when he killed three students during a Feb. 27, 2012 rampage at Chardon High School. Daniel Parmertor, 16, Demetrius Hewlin, 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, died in the attack. Three other students were injured.
Lane chuckled when the judge sentenced him to three life terms in prison with no chance for parole.
Lane was transferred today to Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio. The state will decide at what prison he will serve out his three life sentences from there.
When asked if Lane could be punished in any way for the T-shirt, Hiscox said, “It’s pretty hard to punish somebody when you just gave somebody three life sentences.”
Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fuhry released a statement saying that he did not notice the T-shirt in the courtroom since Lane was seated for the sentencing aside from when the judge entered the chamber.
“Had the court noticed the shirt, the court would have immediately stopped the proceedings, adjourned the court and the court would have ordered the defendant to put on proper attire,” the judge’s statement said, according to ABC News’ Cleveland affiliate WEWS.
In regards to Lane’s verbal statement, the judge wrote, “However disgusting it may be, the defendant has a right to make a statement at sentencing.”
Lane’s attorney Ian Friedman was also stunned by the vulgarity.
“I think everyone in that courtroom was shocked,” Friedman told WEWS. “It was something that was not expected and something that I hope no one ever has to experience again.”
Friedman expressed his sympathy for the victims and their families, saying that it was “painful” to be in courtroom, even as a defense attorney with a job to do.
“I’ve stood in a lot of emotional courts, but this specific act and turning to the families of the deceased like that with a message similar to that, I have not seen that before,” he said
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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