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Guilty: Wheeler Changes Plea

Posted: February 5, 2008 11:45 a.m.
Updated: April 7, 2008 2:01 a.m.
 
More than three years after going on a shooting rampage that killed one person and wounded two others, Robert Wheeler opted not to go to trial Friday and instead pled guilty on two charges.

Wheeler was accused of shooting Newhall resident Christopher Simons on New Year's Day 2005 at Santa Clarita Gifts, an adult gift and entertainment store on San Fernando Road.

After years of delays and continuations in the Superior Court in San Fernando, Wheeler's trial was finally set to begin Feb. 1.

However, at the eleventh hour he decided to forego the trial and entered a guilty plea on charges of murder and attempted murder.

Wheeler's shooting spree started the evening of Jan. 1, 2005, at Santa Clarita Gifts, where, for unknown reasons, he shot Simons in the face with a .22-caliber rifle. Simons, 24, was the lone clerk in the store at the time. Wheeler then left the store but came back 20 minutes later and shot Simons a second time in the face, according to Deputy District Attorney Tuppence MacIntyre.

Shortly thereafter, the Sheriff's Department received reports that two other people had been shot in Saugus. One was shot as he chased a burglar out of his home, and another as he sifted through trash cans. Both victims survived their injuries.

Later that night, Wheeler reportedly called authorities from a pay phone in Stevenson Ranch and confessed to the two Saugus shootings. Deputies quickly converged on the scene in an attempt to apprehend him, but Wheeler shot himself in the head as they approached.

However, the apparent suicide attempt failed. Wheeler regained consciousness a week later; he was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.

For the last three years Wheeler has been held without bail at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. The slow pace at which the case worked its way toward trial was painful for Simons' family.

"As a family we're frustrated that it's been two years and we're not even close to any resolution," said Stuart Simons, Christopher's father, in January 2007. "It's been so long after the death of my son, and that's the hard part."

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20. The murder charge could carry a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.


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