Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Guilty in Stonings Deadly Game Means Prison in Germany

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Guilty in Stonings Deadly Game Means Prison in Germany

Article excerpt

DARMSTADT, Germany -- A court in Darmstadt yesterday convicted three American teenagers of murdering two motorists who were killed when the youths, bored and looking for adventure, hurled rocks from an overpass at cars on the autobahn below.

The boys entered the crowded courtroom in chains, their fashionably baggy pants rumpling around the leg irons as they shuffled to join their lawyers and parents to learn how long they would spend in a juvenile prison.

As Judge Bertram Schmitt read out their sentences -- 8 1/2 years for Jesse McGriff, 18, eight years for Deo Bisessar, also 18, and seven years for the youngest perpetrator, James Wise, 15 -- the courtroom was a study in shattered lives, from the weeping relatives of the victims to the still-baffled parents, siblings and classmates of the convicts.

The boys, who were 14, 17 and 18 at the time of the Feb. 27 incident, admitted during six hours of closed testimony that they had engaged in a contest to see who could score the most direct hits on a car. The highway is near the Lincoln Village U.S. military housing area where the teens lived as dependents of U.S. military personnel stationed in the Darmstadt area.

"Even after they knew they had hit several cars, they kept at it," Schmitt said. "They stopped only when they heard the rescue vehicles approaching."

None of the three defendants had been in trouble with police before the incident, and all were good students in close-knit families, Schmitt said. Those factors and the boys' remorse compelled the court to issue sentences less than the maximum 10 years allowed in juvenile cases, he explained.

Wise and Bisessar apologized to the relatives of Sandra Ottmann, 20, and Karin Rothermel, 41, who were killed when the stones crashed through their windshields as they were traveling at least 60 mph, the judge noted. He also quoted McGriff as telling investigators that there was no punishment that would be too severe for his behavior.

"Why? That is the question even the boys cannot answer. What makes these ordinary, normal boys do something like this?" asked Hilde Patton of the U.S. Army V Corps public affairs office. …

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