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Boy, 14, Expresses Regret Over Killing Teacher

July 27, 2001|From Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A 14-year-old boy who could get life in prison for fatally shooting his teacher told a judge Thursday: "Words cannot really explain how sorry I am, but they're all I have."

Nathaniel Brazill took the stand during a sentencing hearing at which the teacher's mother and brother testified that the boy would be a danger to society if he ever got out of prison.

Brazill insisted, as he did during his trial, that he didn't mean to hurt his teacher, Barry Grunow.

"As I look back on that day, I wish it had not happened and that I could bring Mr. Grunow back," he said, reading from a statement. "I would like to say to everyone that I am very, very sorry. And to Mr. Grunow's family, I am sorry.

"If I had thought about what I was doing, none of this would have happened. . . . I never intended to harm Mr. Grunow."

The teen called Grunow a "great man and a great teacher. . . . I've been thinking about Mrs. Grunow and how lonely she is."

Circuit Judge Richard Wennet said he would decide today whether the teenager can be rehabilitated. The defense is seeking the minimum 25-year term.

Brazill was tried as an adult and convicted in May of second-degree murder in the killing of Grunow, 35, at Lake Worth Middle School on the last day of the 2000 school year.

Brazill had returned to school after being suspended by a counselor earlier that day for throwing water balloons. He shot Grunow after the teacher refused to let him talk to two girls in his class.

At his trial, Brazill insisted that he only meant to scare the teacher and that the gun went off accidentally.

On Thursday, Brazill's mother, Polly Powell, sobbed as she asked the Grunow family for forgiveness and begged the judge for leniency.

"Nathaniel is my first-born, and I love him like nobody else can. I just ask you that you please have mercy on him," Powell said. "We know he's done something wrong. I've said that from the beginning, and we know he must be punished."

Grunow's widow, Pam, told the judge that she didn't have a recommendation to the court.

"I do not know what price Nathaniel should pay for taking Barry's life," she said, reading from a statement. "I cannot make a recommendation because that is not my job. I do not have the wisdom.

"At home he enjoyed working in his garden and being Daddy. He was devoted to us. We were his priority."

Grunow's mother, however, urged the judge to send the boy to prison for life.

"This was not an accident. I think Nathaniel should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Phyllis Grunow.

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