The 2018 Italy High School shooter agreed to the terms of a plea arrangement in exchange for his guilty plea Monday morning, June 24.
Chad Padilla, 18, was sentenced to a total of 80 years in a state prison shortly after he pleaded guilty to attempted capital murder and two counts of aggravated assault in the 443rd District Court of Ellis County.
The shooting victim, Noelle Jones, 17, spoke to the media following the plea and said, “I can’t stop smiling.”
A felony weapons charge, which carried a maximum of 10 years in prison, was dropped prior to the plea agreement.
The attempted capital murder charge carried a 40-year sentence, while the two aggravated assault charges resulted in two 20-year sentences.
The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Padilla will not be eligible for parole until 2039, noted Ellis County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson.
“Who knows what a parole board might do 20 years from now beyond that point,” Wilson added.
For Jones, the plea deal was a chance to put on a brave face and show that she has grown into a strong, young woman.
I was always taught to forgive and forget,” Jones said. “I can’t forget what he did to me. I wake up every morning and look in the mirror and all I see are scars from him. I can’t forget that, but I can forgive him because if I hold a grudge or not, it’s not going to change what happened to me.
“If he gets 40 years or life, I’m going to have to deal with it and grow up. I decided to grow up and deal with it like a woman. ”
The plea agreement comes after a previous deal fell through at the “last minute,” noted Wilson. He stated the victim’s family was “very relieved and excited” to put the incident and ongoing legal procedures behind them.
Wilson also stated his office had Padilla and his attorney agree to the plea agreement this past week before notifying the victim’s family.
“We executed this the way we did because we were so close to having an agreement previously,” Wilson stated Monday. “They were very elated and relieved, and then we had to call them at the 11th hour and say the deal is off. That was, as you can imagine, devastating to them.
“So before we got their hopes up again we just brought him over we executed the plea, he pleaded guilty, the court accepted his plea, and then we notified the family that the deal was going down.”
The decision to revive the previously rejected plea agreement was made by Padilla’s attorney. Wilson also noted that the State of Texas was fully prepared to take the case to trial in August.
During a media briefing Monday following the plea, Wilson added that, in a case such as this, there are no winners. He also stated that up to 40 years of confinement for an 18-year-old is “no small thing.”
“Some people might be concerned by that sentence. Some people might think that’s an outrageous sentence for an 18-year-old,” he continued. “But as was made clear during the certification hearing last year about this time — this is a young man with a history of disturbing violent tendencies, harm toward animals, violent outbursts toward his peers. He’s a young man that had been afforded opportunities for help and rehabilitation, but nothing worked so at some point we have to just look for the protection of society versus the rehabilitation of the offender.”
As previously reported by the Waxahachie Daily Light, Padilla fired seven rounds from a .380 caliber handgun in the Italy High School cafeteria before the first bell rang on Jan. 22, 2018. Six of those bullets struck a 15-year-old female student known to Padilla, while the final shot narrowly missed a male student, later identified as the female’s boyfriend.
Approximately 100 students sat in the cafeteria and ranged from seventh to 12th grade.
An investigation by the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department found Padilla stole his father’s gun a few days prior to the shooting.
During a pre-trial hearing in June 2018, it was disclosed that Padilla had a history of violence with school records showing 11 incidents — three violent, eight behavioral. The incidents included Padilla throwing scissors at a student, throwing a backpack at a student’s face, and punching a computer.
Brian McIntosh, an investigator with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department, stated Padilla fatally stabbed his step-grandmother’s pit bull several years prior and later confessed to the killing, stating, “I can’t feel anything.”
According to that same investigation, Padilla also stabbed a teenage acquaintance at a city park, though McIntosh stated the teen gave consent in the staged incident to take the focus away from a fake social media account the school was looking into.
The Italy Police Department ultimately dropped those charges, which allowed Padilla to avoid a stint in Ellis County Juvenile Services.
McIntosh also told the court that Padilla “seemed like he was on a mission” after entering Italy High School on the morning of Jan. 22, 2018.
Robert Lackey, PhD, a licensed psychologist, also took the stand during a pre-trial hearing to provide the court with the clinical, physiological report. Lackey detailed Padilla’s behavior in school and the series of hospitalizations.
Lackey explained Padilla had infrequent but significant acts of violence and proved to have a healthy support system from family and Italy ISD staff. Studies completed after the shooting showed Padilla has an IQ of 117 — above average — and his personality profile marked he exhibited depression, self-pity, social neediness, self-sabotage and loss of hope.
Padilla had also been hospitalized three times over a 19-month period. In his last visit in October 2016, reports stated he was enraged and planned to hurt his peers. A professional psychologist concluded Padilla could benefit from rigorous, long-term treatment.
In that same pre-trial hearing, Padilla’s father, Chad Padilla Sr., told the courtroom that he “knew there was a major problem” after hearing about the premeditated stabbing in the park. Padilla Sr., however, stated he did not ever feel unsafe during regularly hunting trips with his son.
Padilla Sr. stated his son never disclosed being bullied at school or ever asking for help. However, he recalled his son breaking down in tears and found that as a cry for help.
He also made it known to the courtroom that the family reached out to several mental-health hospitals, but “no beds were available.” Padilla Sr. could not recall ever placing his son on a waiting list.
Judge Cindy Ermatinger, of the 443rd District Court of Ellis County, had also previously ruled that Padilla, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, to be tried as an adult.
During the bond hearing that followed the pre-trial, the mother of the now 17-year-old victim stated her daughter is a “strong girl,” but vividly recalled the shooting almost every night.
On Monday, Jones reiterated that sentiment.
“A year and a half. Two years Jan. 22,” Jones began. “I’m not going to lie life has been extremely hard because there are days when I can’t even get out of bed. That’s all that plays in my head. As much music as I listen to, as many YouTube videos as I watch, as much makeup as I do, laundry, chores, anything, I just can’t get out of bed. And there are days when I want to go out and do the world and then I’m like, ‘Oh my God, he’s here.’ I’m very happy that things played out the way they did because if they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”
Correction: This article was edited to show the victim was 15 years old when shot. Not 14.
Travis M. Smith/Daily Light contributed to this report.