WILMINGTON — A man, who was only 17 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Thursday in New Hanover County Superior Court.
“Earlier today, New Hanover County Superior Court Judge R. Kent Harrell accepted the plea of Khai Anthony Ressler to Second Degree Murder. Ressler was sentenced by Judge Harrell and he will serve a minimum of 7 years, 10 months and a maximum of 10 years, 5 months in prison in connection with today’s conviction. The defendant will receive mental health treatment while serving this sentence and he will be monitored under post-release supervision for one year following his release from the Department of Correction,” according to a press release from District Attorney Ben David.
The incident happened in March of 2017 when Ressler, who was 17, shot and killed his grandfather Oscar Curtis Adams, 57, in the home where they both lived on Angel Island Road.
“Mr. Adams died at the scene of the crime. Just before the shooting, Ressler instigated and initiated an altercation with Mr. Adams by throwing a glass in the victim’s face causing a severe laceration. Mr. Adams asked his friend who witnessed the assault to call for the police, and this friend stepped out into the yard to call 911. While the friend was on the phone with emergency communications, a gun was fired inside the home and Ressler ran out stating he had shot his grandfather,” according to the press release.
Only Ressler, his grandfather, and the victim’s wife were inside the home at the time of the shooting.
“Ressler’s grandmother, who is also the victim’s wife, refused to speak with investigators with the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office about what she had witnessed during the assault on the victim with the glass or the subsequent shooting. Ressler also declined to speak to detectives during the investigation. Ressler later claimed self-defense,” according to the release.
According to prosecutors, Ressler has a history of mental illness and had previously been diagnosed schizophrenic.
“Ressler had been experiencing paranoid and delusional thoughts regarding the victim in this case and Ressler was the subject of an involuntary commitment at Cherry Hospital within three months prior to the shooting. Ressler was evaluated by a psychiatrist after his arrest and the physician determined that the specific nature of Ressler’s psychotic symptoms placed him in a situation where he would have been likely to conclude that he was in imminent danger of being harmed by the victim. The physician found that there was compelling evidence that Ressler believed himself to be in imminent danger,” according to the release.
“Connie Jordan, the assistant district attorney assigned to handle this case, told the court that Ressler had shared paranoid and delusional thoughts about Mr. Adams with neighbors in the months leading up to the shooting causing the victim to fear the defendant, adding, ‘this case is a heartbreaking scenario where someone with extremely concerning mental health issues was able to gain access to a gun,'” the release concluded.