EVERETT, Wash. - He plotted a mass murder at a North Sound High school. On Tuesday, Joshua Alexander O'Connor apologized in court, saying he is grateful his grandmother "intervened when she did."
O'Connor pleaded guilty last December and was supposed to be sentenced for his crimes Tuesday. But the judge postponed sentencing after 4 1/2 hours of testimony detailing O'Connor's childhood.
By almost every standard, O'Connor had a horrific childhood, living with an unstable mother, finally rescued by his caring grandparents. But even he admitted in court, that was not enough to save him.
"I would like to apologize to everyone I've hurt through my selfish actions," said O'Connor, reading from a handwritten script, "for everything I've done."
It is the first time 19-year-old O'Connor has spoken publicly about his plot last year to commit mass murder at ACES High School in Mukilteo, a school he chose through a coin toss.
"I'm ashamed at myself for my disturbing thoughts," said O'Connor, "and my plans that I wrote in my journal. I know I can never take back what I wrote. But I hope one day I can be forgiven."
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When his grandmother read his plans, she turned him in. He now says she is his hero.
"She saved my life," he said. "And for that, I love her."
A very different looking O'Connor appeared in a court a year ago, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, his hair shoulder length. He was already a suspect in an armed robbery at an Everett convenience store.
Then his grandmother discovered he had bought a grenade and had written in his journal about building pressure cooker bombs.
"She'd put the three kids in high chairs and there would be food all over the floor," said Catherine O'Connor as she described her grandson's chaotic upbringing and the mental instability of his mother, her daughter.
"She was saying that her husband was Jesus Christ," said Catherine O'Connor. "And they slept together. And they were perfectly happy that way. It was pretty frightening to us."
She says she and her husband became Joshua's legal guardians in 2014 and brought him to Washington state.
That is when his life went off the rails, he attempted suicide and began planning a school bombing like those of other troubled teens.
Going to jail, he says, has changed his life for the better. He and his family now asking the judge for leniency.
"I know I can be a functioning member of society," said O'Connor. "And I know I can make a positive impact in this world."
O'Connor and his attorney are asking that he be sentenced to just 12 years in prison. The Snohomish County prosecutor is seeking nearly double that amount of time.
The judge said he will announce his decision on Feb. 28th.
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