Plea change in Vt. shootings expected
No trial for man accused of killing 2 and injuring 2
BURLINGTON, Vt. - A man accused of killing two people and wounding two others in shootings in 2006 has agreed to enter a plea and will not go to trial on the charges, officials said yesterday.
Christopher A. Williams, 29, will either plead guilty or enter a plea of no contest in the Aug. 24, 2006, shootings in Essex, said Deputy Chittenden State's Attorney Mary Morrissey.
A change-of-plea hearing and sentencing have been set for Jan. 16. Victims and family members of those killed are expected to testify.
"Next Wednesday is the whole ball of wax," said Margaret Jansch, one of his public defenders. "It will be over next Wednesday ."
Police alleged that Williams, irate after a break-up with girlfriend Andrea Lambesis, set out to kill her, but she was not home when he got there. Instead, he fatally shot her mother, Linda, 57, before heading to Essex Elementary School in search of Andrea Lambesis, police said.
The school was in summer recess, but several dozen teachers and staff members were working when Williams arrived. Police say he opened fire, killing teacher Mary Alicia Shanks, 56, and wounding employee Mary Snedeker, 52.
Some school employees ran out of the school, ducking; others hid as SWAT teams and sheriff's deputies searched the halls for Williams, who escaped and then turned up nearby at a condominium complex, where he allegedly shot Chad Johansen, 26, who survived.
Williams shot himself in the head twice but survived.
The surprise announcement of the pending plea yesterday was made in a status conference before Vermont District Judge Geoffrey Crawford, two weeks before a scheduled competency hearing aimed at determining whether Williams was capable of assisting in his own defense.
Williams, who's being held without bail at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, did not attend.
Previously, he had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
His lawyers confirmed that a plea deal had been reached, but neither they nor Morrissey would say what Williams would plead to or how much prison time he would serve.
"He hasn't actually entered a plea yet," said Morrissey. "Until he comes into court and changes the plea, I can't talk about the details of it."
Snedeker could not be reached for comment yesterday. She did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment, nor did school officials in Essex or in St. Albans, where Lambesis worked.
"Just the mere fact that there's a change in plea is newsworthy, and we're going to let that be the story," said public defender Richard Haesler, Williams's lead lawyer.