HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (Jan. 7, 2016) – A Fishers teenager agreed to plead guilty Thursday to murdering a man in a “thrill kill."
Maxwell Winkler pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and firearm enhancement. The plea deal called for a sentence of 65 years for the murder charge and 20 years for the firearm enhancement with five years suspended. Winkler will spend 80 years in prison and five years in probation. He could be eligible for parole after serving at least 60 years of that sentence.
Winkler's counsel requested a change of plea hearing late last month, according to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office. A jury trial had been scheduled to start on Jan. 19 in the case. However, in Thursday's hearing, Winkler agreed to plead guilty to the charges.
Winkler was a 17-year-old high school student when prosecutors said he killed 73-year-old Henry Kim, shooting him three times and cutting his throat. It happened while Kim was walking in a park near his home in November 2014. Court records show Winkler had a handwritten note detailing the supplies and steps needed to commit a murder. One note reminded him to “enjoy the kill.”
In September, a judge ruled Winkler was competent to stand trial after experts testified he understood the consequences of his trial as well as his legal options.
Two medical experts testified Winkler does suffer from several mental disorders including autism, but nonetheless understands the consequences of the trial and his legal options.
“No mental health defect that he had rose to the level of him being unable to understand the wrongfulness of the actions on November 1st 2014,” said Hamilton County prosecutor Lee Buckingham.
Kim's close friend, Charles Chae, told CBS4 by phone that no sentence would bring peace to such a difficult situation and loss.
"No matter how long they put him in jail, a dead person cannot come back. ... I can't understand it," Chae said.
As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek life without parole.
Winkler will be officially sentenced in February.