Teenage stabbers Jordan Baker and Keenan Lambert will spend their young adulthood behind bars, just like they have for nearly 10 months.Lincoln County District Court Judge Donald Rowland sentenced 16-year-old Jordan Baker to a total of 15-30 years for two crimes -- first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony.
Keenan Lambert, the 18-year-old who took the lead in the crimes, will do 20-40 years on the same charges.
It was a long day in Lincoln County District Court. Sentencings were handed down in several high-profiles cases.
The two boys stabbed two employees at the Nebraska Youth Center, a home in North Platte for homeless boys, in July 2013. The victims were both women -- Diana Johns and Robin Schneider.
Both teens were initially charged with attempted murder, but the charges were lowered because of their age.
The boys snuck the knives out of the kitchen at the youth center. According to court records, Johns was seated, doing paperwork, when Lambert came out of his room, complaining of a headache. She gave him a Tylenol and sent him back to his room.
A short time later, she heard rapid footsteps in the hall and turned to see Baker running toward Robin Schneider. She watched in horror as the two of them struggled and blood spurted from Schneider’s back.
Schneider was stabbed five times – three times in the back, once in her left shoulder and once behind her ear. She suffered a partially collapsed lung, according to court affadavits.
After Baker stabbed Schneider, he came around the front desk at Johns, she said in an affadavit. He stabbed her in the right side of her neck and shoulder. John said she pushed him away and he stumbled back.
Johns was stabbed again on the other side of her neck, but she managed to get to Schneider and the two of them got inside the office, according to the affadavit. Baker tried to push the office door open, but Schneider held him off. She got the door locked and Johns called 911, the affadavit said. The women made makeshift bandages.
A 12-inch knife with an 8-inch blade was found at the scene. Baker, who reportedly stabbed himself in the hand when he fell back from Johns, left a bloody trail to the parking lot, where the boys stole Schneider’s car to escape. They were caught about an hour later on I-80 near Lexington.
According to investigators, they threatened other boys in the home if anyone tried to stop them. They planned to go to St. Louis.
"Thankfully, they (the victims) are still here today," Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said Monday in court. "They live with pain. They have mobility issues. They were doing their job, which was to care for the young men. They were there to protect them. Instead, they were stabbed numerous times."
Harling asked for a substantial jail sentence. She didn't say how many years.
Baker's defense attorney Patrick Heng noted his young age, his background in a broken home and said that he wasn't the leader, even though early police reports indicated that he was. Heng also said a psychological evaluation noted Baker's difficulty understanding what he was doing at the time.
Heng also asked Rowlands to consider "what he (Baker) has going for him," and asked for "miminal incarceration."
Baker spoke to the court. He apologized to the victim, the family, the workplace, the city and the state.
"I almost took a life," he said. "I understand what I did and I take responsibility."
Rowlands pointed out that the presentence investigation indicated he is a high risk to reoffend, but agreed that "he appears to be more of a follower than ringleader."
Rowland ordered Baker to spend 10-20 years in prison for first degree assault and 5-10 years for use of a deadly weapon, and said the terms must be served one after another (consecutively.) He gave Baker credit for 290 days in jail since his arrest and said he would be eligible for "good time" provisions, essentially cutting his sentence in half he causes no trouble in jail.
Rowlands was tougher on Lambert, who is two years older and is thought to have led the crimes.
Before sentencing, Harling restated her request for significant prison time.
Defense attorney Stephen Potter asked for consideration of Lambert's age, background and lack of prior record. Then, he added another perspective.
"From a practical perspective, we understand that our client is not a candidate for probation," he said. "It just hit me, sitting her in court today -- a young man (Micah Koch) violated the law, resulting in a death, and was sentenced to probation. Here we are sending these young men to a lot longer sentence in the penitentiary. It just seems inequitable."
He asked the court for consideration.
Lambert stood at the podium in the middle of the courtroom. "I sincerely regret what I did. Not a day goes without thinking of what I did. I'm truly sorry," he said.
Rowlands noted that Lambert had a prior conviction of criminal mischief in 2012, and he had been locked down twice in the Lincoln County Jail since the stabbings because he violated detention regulations. Rowland also said he believes that Lambert was the prime mover in the stabbings.
"I believe that since you are older, a higher sentence is in order," Rowlands said, and handed down a sentence of 15-30 years for assault and 5-10 for use of a deadly weapon.
Lambert also gets credit for 290 days in jail.
In the gallery, Schnieder cried and received hugs from well-wishers.