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Calif. teen pleads guilty to murder of 13-year-old sister in brutal 2016 slaying

Darrell Smith, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Placer County teenager Tanner Wood pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the 2016 slaying of his 13-year-old sister in the basement of their Rocklin home, part of a deal his attorney said would spare a painful trial.

A prison sentence of 16 years to life awaits the 16-year-old Wood at a Sacramento sentencing set for Nov. 2: 15 years for the murder of Ashley Wood, plus an additional year for using a deadly weapon.

Wood used a pickax to kill his sister, California attorney general's prosecutors said Friday. The teen also used a knife and a sledgehammer, they said.

The crime was shocking for its brutality and for the two at the center of it -- the young children of a Placer County homicide prosecutor, one dead, the other bound for prison, leaving a family with unfathomable loss.

Authorities found Ashley Wood's lifeless body on the dirt floor basement of the family home. Tanner, then 14, was captured in a field little more than a mile from the home.

Prosecutors said Tanner had planned the crime for weeks before the July 19, 2016, killing.

The unusual case was heard in Sacramento County and prosecuted by state attorneys after the Placer County district attorney's office declared a conflict of interest.

"After two years, we reached an agreement to avoid what would have been a devastating trial for everyone," said Wood's attorney, Kevin Adamson, after the Friday afternoon hearing before Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles.

Adamson called the case "clearly the most difficult and heartbreaking of my career."

Wood was led by deputies into the Sacramento courtroom in his dark green jail uniform, shackled at the waist and ankles.

He spoke clearly, but only to tell Arguelles he understood the rights he surrendered: the right to a jury trial; the right to appeal his sentence; the right to contest the Sacramento venue.

"Yes, I understand," Wood said to each, as a pair of Placer County probation officers waited to escort him back to El Dorado County, where he will remain until his November sentencing.

At 16, Wood will remain in juvenile custody until he is 18, when he will be transferred to state prison, Adamson said.

"It's an appropriate resolution given the young age of the client. He will have an opportunity to potentially parole after 16 years and I'm confident he will do a lot of growing during that period," Adamson said following the hearing. "My heart goes out to his parents -- it's a tough day for them -- they are fantastic people who are having to deal with the unthinkable."

(c)2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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