A Connecticut teen accused of stabbing his classmate to death at a Milford high school hours before the prom pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Christopher Plaskon, 17, is accused of fatally stabbing Maren Sanchez, also 16, inside Jonathan Law High School in April in an attack some students said might have been motivated by anger that she would not go to the prom with him.
Plaskon, who has been charged as an adult with murder, entered the not guilty plea during a probable cause hearing on Wednesday and waived a trial by jury. His case will go before a three-judge panel instead.
On Wednesday, the defense team said they are considering a mental health defense and believe that a three-judge panel might handle that better. The prosecution asked for DNA samples to compare with evidence at the crime scene and the judge granted a request for fingerprints and palm prints.
The next court date has been set for July 30.
Plaskon is being held at Manson Youth Training Institute, a correctional facility in Cheshire for boys and young men between the ages of 12 and 19. Meehan has said that Plaskon was placed in the infirmary at the Cheshire institution, where he received medication and remained on suicide watch.
"He is still under psychiatric care. He was released today from the emergency commitment, but he is on medication. He's being actively treated for that. And, as I indicated on the record to the judge, he is still displaying signs of active psychosis," Meehan said during a news conference after the last court appearance in May.
Meehan previously said he would not comment on his discussions with his client and said any matters of the diagnosis and what it means for the case are medical questions that experts will evaluate.
Police have said Plaskon was spotted just moments after the April 25 stabbing with blood on his hands and clothing. "I did it. Just arrest me," he told authorities, according to police paperwork released. Police said they recovered a knife in the hallway, not far from where Sanchez was attacked.
One witness reported seeing Plaskon on top of Sanchez and being unable to pull him away from her, according to police. Another witness told police he saw Plaskon throw a bloody knife on a hallway floor shortly after he was removed from the scene.
The medical examiner concluded that Sanchez died of stab wounds to the torso and neck. Her death was ruled a homicide.
When asked if the trial in this high-profile case could be held here, Kevin Lawlor, state's attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford, said he thinks so.
“I think the law is pretty clear on change of venue,” he said. “In the Internet age, where all of you have this all over the United States in a matter of minutes, in a small state like Connecticut, change of venue really doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot.”
When asked about motive, Lawlor said he could not speak to it and the investigation is ongoing.
“Those types of conclusions, I think, will be made further on down the line as we gather all of the facts as the Milford Police Department and other law enforcement agencies find them,” Lawlor said.
Plaskon’s family has expressed sympathies for the Sanchez family.
"In prayer we ask for comfort for the Sanchez family and all of us so deeply affected by this tragedy," the Plaskon family said in a statement. "We pray for the wisdom to guide us as we desperately try to pull together the shattered pieces of our families. And finally, we pray that time may soften our wounds and reveal forgiveness in the hearts of all."
During a court appearance in May, attorney Richard Meehan said Plaskon's parents wanted to be in court with their son, but he recommended that they stay in seclusion for the court appearance. The teen's uncle, who has been appointed Plaskon's guardian, was there instead.
Attorneys said the uncle has been named the guardian because Plaskon's parents might have to testify during their son's trial.
"The Plaskons are a very large family, there's a very large extended family here. They have a great deal of community support here. All of their hearts are broken," Meehan said.