WILKES-BARRE – After weeks of plea negotiations and years of a pending homicide case, a teen charged in the December 2009 shooting death of his great-grandfather has pleaded guilty to a homicide charge.
Cody Lee, 19, entered the plea to a third-degree murder charge Wednesday, and faces an agreed upon 14 to 28 years in prison, though the charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years.
“(Lee) stepped forward and accepted responsibility for his conduct,” his attorney Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said after Wednesday’s hearing.
“It’s a difficult case for everyone. He regrets what happened,” Olszewski said. “The (plea agreement) gives everyone some closure and finality.”
Prosecutors say Lee was 16 years old when he shot and killed his 80-year-old great-grandfather, Herbert Lee, inside their Meeker Outlet Road home in Lake Township.
First Assistant District Attorney Samuel Sanguedolce said Lee knew where the gun was inside the home and took screws out of a gun cabinet to obtain the weapon and ammunition.
Lee fired one shot, which struck his great-grandfather in the head.
Lee’s father, Scott Lee, arrived home shortly after to find Lee in the bathroom with the rifle. Scott Lee wrestled the gun away from his son before Lee fled into the woods.
Sanguedolce said a friend of Lee’s, Josh Gleco, observed the shooting through a front window.
The prosecutor said that had the case gone to trial, the evidence would show that Lee had a notebook that outlined a plan he intended on carrying out, including killing his father and great-grandfather.
Lee allegedly showed the list to a friend at school, Sanguedolce said.
County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. asked Lee a number of questions about entering his guilty plea, and asked if the information stated by Sanguedolce was what he was pleading guilty to.
“Yes, sir,” Lee replied.
“The ultimate decision was his,” Olzewski told Sklarosky of discussions Lee had with Olszewski and his other attorneys, Charles Rado and Melissa Scartelli. “We advised him of the alternatives … we believe this plea is in his best interest.”
As part of his plea agreement, Lee is not permitted to return to the Meeker Outlet Road home when released from prison.
He’ll be sentenced on Oct. 25, Sklarosky said.
Olszewski said his client has already served four years in prison and will receive credit for that time towards his minimum of 14 years in prison.
A woman who identified herself as Lee’s aunt said Wednesday when leaving court the guilty plea provides some closure, but that the process is still long and hard.
Olszewski spoke Wednesday about representing Lee pro bono – free of charge – a decision he made in taking on Lee’s case shortly after the shooting.
At the time, Olszewski said he and his wife, Scartelli, were out to dinner with Rado when they heard about the shooting on the news. Scartelli immediately expressed an interest in the case.
Although Lee qualified for a public defender, Olszewski, Scartelli and Rado agreed to represent him for free.
“It’s our chance to give back to the community,” Olszewski said. “This has been a lengthy representation … and we’re privileged to do it.”