Teen charged in grandmother’s death pleads guilty in court

Local News

An Erie County judge accepts a plea deal for a teen charged with the death of his grandmother.

In a taped interview with police, Hunter Reeser said he shot his grandmother because he didn’t want to go to school for a meeting.  While a judge ruled that confession was not viable in trial, the defendant is now accepting responsibility in court more than two years later.

16-year old Hunter Reeser admits to pulling the trigger that led to the death of his grandmother.  The defendant pleading guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder for shooting and killing 60-year old Sandra Orton on August 23rd of 2016.

Even though Reeser was just 14-years-old at the time, the judge determined he would be tried as an adult.  Through the plea deal, the prosecution and defense are recommending a minimum sentence between 7 and 10 years, and a maximum of 20.

Defense Attorney James Pitonyak says, “There was a lot of physical evidence and evidence from witnesses relative to this matter, so we didn’t want to run the risk of going to trial here and having him convicted of first-degree murder because that would’ve been a life sentence for him.” 

But, the prosecutor says learning more about Reeser’s lengthy mental health background played a role in reaching a middle ground with the defense.

Paul Sellers, Assistant District Attorney, says, “Any time you have a case with a juvenile, it’s a difficult case because you have to go through that whole de-certification process. In this case, there’s a lot of specifics related to Mr. Reeser and just the lengthy psychiatric history he’s had going all the way back to one and a half years old.” 

Experts say Reeser was living with severe mental illness that was likely not treated effectively. 

One of his family members who wished to remain anonymous said after the hearing, “We stand behind Hunter and we support him.” 

Reeser is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7th at 9am.

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