Ross Twp. teen charged in fatal shooting pleads insanity

A not guilty by reason of insanity plea has been entered for a Ross High School student charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a fellow student.

Zachary Welsh, 17, is being tried as an adult. Because of his age and the seriousness of the crime, the case was a mandatory relinquishment to adult court.

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Welsh was indicted for murder as well as aggravated robbery, felonious assault, and tampering with evidence.

Defense attorney Richard Hyde has filed a suggestion of Welsh’s competency to stand trial and a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. In the motions Hyde does not elaborate on the reasoning, but at a previous court hearing he indicated the teen has a form of autism.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Stephens ordered a forensic psychological evaluation for Welsh. He is scheduled to be back in court on May 7 for a competency evaluation hearing.

Welsh is being held in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bond.

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During last month’s hearing Butler County Sheriff’s Detective Joe Nerlinger said Welsh originally told him he shot Austin Hensley in self-defense.

Hensley was found in a house with a shotgun against his temple. He died of one shot to the head, and police later learned the shotgun was not loaded.

During questioning, Welsh later said he intended to rob Hensley of the shotgun, said when he went to “pistol whip” the teen, the gun went off, Nerlinger said during the hearing. Welsh said he then wiped down the gun, washed his hands and stashed the .38 caliber in a hole in a closet of another room.

“Eventually he came clean, said it was his intention to rob Hensley,” Nerlinger said.

But Hyde said that his client had originally told all the officers that he acted in self-defense after Hensley pointed the gun at him.

Another 17-year-old Ross student, pleaded guilty to grand theft of a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting. The teen was sentenced by Judge Ronald Craft to the Butler County Rehabilitation Center for a period of five to six months or longer, depending on behavior. He will also be placed on probation when released.

According to court documents, the teen removed his father’s .38-caliber handgun from his father’s bedroom and passed it to Welsh.

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