Venango teen sentenced to up to 80 years in prison in shooting death of grandparents

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A Venango County teenager has been sentenced to 35 to 80 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of third-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of his grandparents.

Zachary Proper, 14, of Oil City was sentenced immediately after he entered the plea Tuesday in Venango County Common Pleas Court.

Prosecutors said Zachary was 13 years old when he killed 69-year-old George Fross and 67-year-old Dorothy Fross at their Sandycreek home near Franklin on Oct. 7, 2012.

His court-appointed attorney Wayne Hundertmark said Wednesday that he hopes Zachary will be incarcerated at SCI Pine Grove, an Indiana County maximum-security facility that serves young adult offenders who have been sentenced as adults. He said Zachary will get credit for the more than 400 days he’s served at the Venango County Prison.

Mr. Hundertmark maintained that the case should have played out in juvenile court and said his client suffers from mental illness. He also said the young man was remorseful and “loved his grandparents dearly.”

In August, a judge ruled that the teen should be prosecuted as an adult rather than in juvenile court, where he would have been incarcerated only until he is 21 had he been adjudicated delinquent.

He entered a plea of not guilty to the crimes that same month and was scheduled to go on trial next week. Jury selection began Monday.

State police said in an affidavit of probable cause that Zachary first shot Dorothy Fross, then gunned down his terminally ill grandfather before driving to Oil City in his grandmother’s car. There, troopers said, he dumped the gun in a storm drain before partying with his cousins.

He initially told police that a friend inside the home fired the shots, then later confessed to the killings. Asked why he shot them, Zachary said he was mad because his grandparents had insulted his mother.

“I don’t know why he did it,” Mr. Hundertmark said Wednesday. “I know it is a terrible, terrible thing that occurred.”

Zachary’s family could not be reached.

Molly Born:

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