CINCINNATI – A man accused of shooting a La Salle student to death last February walked into court on Tuesday, signed a piece of paper and accepted the 12 year sentence handed to him by a judge.
"I have decided not to defend my actions. I have decided not to go to trial," said Dierres Lee, one hand unshackled after he signed a plea agreement. "I am here to accept responsibility for my actions."
Lee was 19 when police say he shot 17-year-old student Justin Brown in the head after a drug deal. As part of his deal, Lee pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Brown's mother sat in court as Lee was sentenced. She was given the opporunity to address Lee.
"On February 24, all of Justin's hopes and dreams were taken from him by you," Joanne Brown said to Lee, shaking. "I hope you take every moment you spend in prison and think about the life you so carelessly took. And I hope you know you destroyed our family."
Police said Brown, along with three other La Salle students, attempted to buy marijuana from Lee in the 1700 block of Carll Street on Feb. 24, 2013.
Investigators said Lee shot at the four high school students’ vehicle after they gave Lee fake money and tried to drive away from the scene with the marijuana. Brown was struck in the head while in the passenger seat, according to authorities.
"They had bought marijuana from me in the past, never had any problem," Lee explained in court Tuesday. "Why this night, why they decided to steal from me I will never know."
The other students in the car with Brown at the time drove him to Good Samaritan Hospital. Brown was later transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he died, police said.
In court Tuesday, Judge Melba Marsh told both Brown's family and Lee's family what both already painfully knew – when it comes to illegal drugs, it's not just the lives of the dealer and buy who are crushed.
"Both sides are grieving over what should not have happened," Marsh said.