Teenager sentenced to 42 years for sniper killing
A Gaston teenager found guilty of killing a New Albany man and wounding another motorist in a shooting spree along a Southern Indiana interstate in July 2006 was sentenced last week to 42 years in prison.
Zachariah Blanton, 18, was sentenced Dec. 27 in Jackson County by Circuit Judge William Vance. The hearing lasted three hours, during which time the judge told Blanton that what he did ‘most definitely had an impact on the motoring public in Jackson County and, in fact, across the nation.’
In early December, Blanton pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and criminal recklessness. As part of the plea agreement, he could have been sentenced to up to 53 years in prison.
Initially, the teenager was charged with murder and attempted murder, and could have faced a maximum of 65 years and 50 years, respectively, if convicted on those charges.
Blanton, who was firing from an overpass along Interstate 65, killed Jerry L. Ross, 40, just after midnight on July 22, a week before the New Albany man’s birthday.
Ross was shot in the back of the head when Blanton’s bullet from a high-powered rifle penetrated the rear window of a pickup truck that Ross was riding in with his twin brother, Terry L. Ross. Another brother, David L. Ross, was driving the truck. The three were traveling south on Interstate 65 near the 52-mile marker.
The boys’ mother, Sue Adams of Corydon, said the three, who were huge racing fans, were returning from watching a friend race in an auto contest.
In addition to firing the shot at Ross’s pickup, Blanton, who was 17 at the time, shot at another southbound vehicle and wounded then 25-year-old Robert J. Hartl of Iowa. The bullet grazed Hartl’s head.
Blanton, who has a criminal history of theft and sex offenses, had been deer hunting in a remote area of Washington County earlier in the weekend of the shootings. He left in anger after a fight with one of his uncles, who was also on the trip.
According to court records, the teenager left the farm, driving on back roads toward Seymour. He eventually reached the I-65 overpass, where he took out his high-powered Remington Model 710 rifle, which had a scope, and fired a .270-caliber round at the pickup carrying the three Ross brothers.
Police believe Blanton drove toward Muncie and later fired at two vehicles along I-69, but there are no pending charges in those shootings, in which no one was injured.
After an extensive manhunt, Blanton was arrested three days after the interstate shootings.