Former Principal Convicted Of Killing BossJUDY GIANNETTINO , Associated Press
Jun. 21, 1985 10:56 AM ET
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) _ A former high school principal has been sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting his boss, the school superintendent, during a February job evaluation.
A state district court jury on Thursday found O.C. ''Chick'' Fero, formerly with Tohatchi High, guilty of first-degree murder after deliberating for 41/2 hours.
He was sentenced by District Judge Ed DePauli, who recommended that Fero receive psychiatric treatment during his imprisonment.
There was no dispute during Fero's four-day trial over whether he killed Gallup-McKinley County school Superintendent Paul Hanson. The state alleged Fero acted intentionally when he fired five shots at Hanson on Feb. 22, while the defense said Fero's actions were caused by a mental illness.
Defense attorney Leon Taylor of Albuquerque argued that Fero should be convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. But in his instructions to the jury, DePauli said only the charges of first-degree and second-degree murder could be considered.
Another attorney for Fero, Phil Gaddy, said the lack of a manslaughter choice for the jury would be a key point of the former principal's appeal.
During the trial, two secretaries at the school district's administration headquarters testified that while Fero was meeting with Hanson, they heard five gunshots, after which Fero calmly walked out of Hanson's office and said, ''Call the police.''
Other prosecution witnesses testified that Fero admitted killing Hanson, but the defense contended Fero did not remember shooting the superintendent because he fell into a ''psychotic episode.''
Albuquerque psychologist Julianne Lockwood, who conducted an evaluation of Fero earlier this month, testified that the defendant had a borderline personality disorder, that he was overly sensitive to criticism and that he often misinterpreted people's attitudes toward him.
In a recorded statement to police, made six hours after the shooting and played for jurors, Fero said he did not remember shooting Hanson.
He said that as he began to leave Hanson's office, he opened a portfolio he was carrying and a gun fell out.
The next thing he remembered, he said, was seeing Hanson lying on the floor o his office.
Fero said he reached down to touch Hanson and ''my heart just fell out.''
''I felt I'd done such a terrible thing ... I shot a man,'' he said.