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Ohio students mark school shooting anniversary with wreaths, vigil

A Chardon firefighter embraces a high school student during a one year anniversary memorial march for three murdered classmates in Chardon,
A Chardon firefighter embraces a high school student during a one year anniversary memorial march for three murdered classmates in Chardon,

By Kim Palmer

CHARDON, Ohio (Reuters) - Students clad in red-and-black school colors walked a mile on Wednesday in a procession from Ohio's Chardon High School to lay wreaths in the town square, marking a year since a shooting rampage in which three former classmates were killed.

Chardon, a small town about 40 miles east of Cleveland, was once known mainly for the county syrup festival, but along with communities in Connecticut, Colorado, Arkansas and Virginia, is now remembered for a school shooting spree.

On Wednesday, more than 100 people, including friends and relatives and police and firefighters from surrounding cities, joined the students at the square for the ceremony where the wreaths were placed beneath framed photographs of the three slain students.

A year ago, T.J. Lane, then 17, fired 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol at students gathered in a cafeteria at Chardon High School.

Demetrius Hewlin, 16, Russell King Jr., 17, and Daniel Parmertor, 16, were killed. Nick Walczak, who was paralyzed from the waist down, Nate Mueller and Joy Rickers were wounded.

Some Chardon students made blankets for child-trauma sufferers or collars for service dogs to mark the day. A candle-light vigil and concert were occurring on Wednesday night. Afterward, students were to release lanterns in a private event at the school.

"I'm glad this ... marker is over. It will help them put what happened behind us," said Mary Loder, whose daughter, Rachel, co-founded Chardon High School's chapter of the Linus Project, a group that makes blankets for traumatized children.

Loder, her husband, George Loder, and their children delivered blankets to Newtown, Connecticut, to support grieving residents after 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at an elementary school there in December.

Lane, who was quickly captured nearby and confessed that he had fired the shots, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to six counts including aggravated murder. He faces up to life in prison without parole at sentencing, which is scheduled for March 19.

School Superintendent Joseph Bergant told those gathered that he hoped the events "offer some control over how the impact of this event affects us."

The school shooting at Newtown ignited a national debate about gun violence and a push from some in Congress for expanded background checks aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals and the mentally ill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote as early as Thursday on four separate gun-control bills, including a proposed ban on assault weapons. The bills are likely to be approved by the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee and be considered by the full Senate, congressional aides said on Tuesday.

Ohio state representatives observed a moment of silence on Wednesday in remembrance of the shooting, and Chardon state Representative John Patterson said he would introduce a bill to designate highways in the names of the three slain students.

(Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Johnston)

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