In front of a packed courtroom, a Greenwood teenager tearfully apologized to the family of a Whiteland Community High School student he shot and killed.
In a letter to the parents of 16-year-old Zachary Edwards, who died after he was shot in the head earlier this year, the 19-year-old who pulled the trigger told the court how sorry he was.
“Zach did not deserve what happened to him,” Isaac Stinemetz said.
“Zach was my best friend, and I loved him like a brother. I would never have hurt him intentionally.”
Edwards’ parents shared their own letters about how their life had been changed since losing their son, and asked the judge to sentence Stinemetz to the maximum amount allowed.
“Give him as much time as you can or this will happen again,” said Alisha Edwards, Zachary’s mother.
“I’m very upset, but I don’t hate him. I want to see him better, and I don’t want to see this happen again.”
Johnson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Loyd sentenced Stinemetz to three years in prison and three years on probation, citing his juvenile record, which included time in the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center. Loyd also sentenced Stinmetz to the purposeful incarceration program, meant to help rehabilitate offenders to rejoin society.
Stinemetz had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a handgun without a license.
The charges stemmed from an incident in January in the Pebble Creek neighborhood in Greenwood. A resident had reported a suspicious car parked in front of their home, and when officers checked it, they found Edwards dead in the backseat from a gunshot to the head.
While police were investigating, two teens came to the Greenwood police station with their parents and said they had seen the shooting. They told police Stinemetz and Edwards were arguing in the car, and Stinemetz pulled out a gun and shot Edwards.
Police found Stinemetz at his Greenwood home and arrested him. Stinemetz told police he had pointed the gun Edwards and fired, but didn’t think the gun was loaded when he pulled the trigger. After the shooting, Stinemetz told police he and the other two teens panicked and ran. Stinemetz dropped the gun down a nearby storm drain.
During the sentencing hearing, Stinemetz said the teens had been out drinking and shooting road signs on back roads the night of the shooting. He and Edwards had an argument, but he couldn’t remember what it was about. After the shooting, he dropped the gun in a sewer drain and ran home, and woke up later to police at his door, he said.
“Instead of calling 911 or giving aid to Zach, he ran from the scene and hid his gun and buried his head in the ground. If the defendant had just shown a little bit of humanity, Zach may still be here today,” Johnson County deputy prosecutor Drew Foster said.
Edwards’ mother said a good friend wouldn’t have pointed a gun at another friend and wouldn’t have run away after the shooting.
“I don’t think someone would shoot his friend then run like a sissy,” Alisha Edwards said.
She and Edwards’ father, Matt Edwards, remembered their son as a teen with potential, who loved working on cars and had dreams of joining the Air Force and attending Purdue University to study engineering.
“All his hopes and dreams are gone,” Matt Edwards said.
“No words or actions can say what I feel. There is a huge void in our lives.”
Alisha Edwards said her son would do anything for his friends, and had touched so many people at Whiteland Community High School and in the community.
“He was my sidekick, my very best friend, my protector, my miracle baby,” she said.
“When he died, a piece of me died.”
But because of her son, she couldn’t hate Stinemetz, because that is not what Zachary would have wanted, she said. She wanted to see Stinemetz serve as much time as possible, so this won’t happen again, and wanted to make sure he would get help, she said.
“I can’t hate him. That’s not what my son would want. I have to forgive him,” Alisha Edwards said.
Foster asked the judge to sentence Stinemetz to as long of a sentence as possible due to the fact he had a gun and that he ran and didn’t try to help after the shooting. Foster also cited Stinemetz’s juvenile record, including a battery charge for a fight at school, resisting police and criminal mischief and then violating his probation.
Under the charge, the maximum Stinemetz could face was six years, Loyd told the family.
“There is no way I think I can lessen your pain. If there was something I could do, I would do it,” Loyd said.
Loyd told Stinemetz the sentence, including sending him to the purposeful incarceration program, was intended to help him.
“You can earn back the opportunity to do something with your life,” Loyd said.
Daily Journal reporter Adrianna Pitrelli contributed to this report.