John Odgren, Mass. Teen, Convicted of Killing Student, Faces Life; Jury Rejects Insanity Claim

John Odgren (AP Photo)
John Odgren (AP Photo)

WOBURN, Mass. (CBS/AP) John Odgren's lawyers depicted him as a troubled 16-year-old with a long history of emotional problems and disorders, including Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression. A Middlesex Superior Court jury viewed him as a premeditated killer, and convicted Odgren, now 19, of first-degree murder, for fatally stabbing another student at a suburban Boston high school.

A first-degree murder conviction in Massachusetts carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility for parole.

The jury Thursday rejected a defense assertion that Odgren was legally insane when he stabbed 15-year-old James Alenson in a boys' bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School on Jan. 19, 2007.

Odgren showed no outward emotion as the verdict was announced. He then sat down in his chair and was comforted by his attorneys.

Odgren's father testified that his son, who had a genius-level IQ, was anxious and would not socialize with other children. He was teased and harassed at various schools he attended, and talked of suicide at age 9, his father said.

Three child behavioral specialists testifying for the defense said that Odgren had lost touch with reality and was in a state of paranoia when he stabbed Alenson. They said he was not criminally responsible for killing Alenson.

The defense experts cited Odgren's fascination with Stephen King's series of books, "The Dark Tower," and his obsession with the number 19, which is symbolic in the books. Odgren stabbed Alenson on the 19th day of the month and year.

But prosecutors depicted Odgren as a calculating killer who brought a carving knife to school, then picked a victim at random.

A state-certified psychiatrist testifying for prosecutors said Odgren knew what he was doing and was aware of the consequences when he attacked Alenson. She cited statements he made to authorities after the killing, when he admitted killing Alenson and asked about the possible sentence for manslaughter.

"I did it. I just snapped. I don't know why," Odgren told a teacher who ran to the scene.

Had the jury found Odgren not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been sent to a psychiatric hospital until a judge ruled he was no longer a danger to society.


April 14, 2010 - Did Teen John Odgren Commit "Perfect Murder" or is Mental Disorder to Blame for High School Killing?