The case of a 17-year-old Ross High School student charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a fellow student has been sent to adult court.
Zachary Welsh, who is charged with aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence in addition to murder for allegedly fatally shooting Austin Hensley on the evening of Jan. 30 at a residence on Hine Road, will now have his case considered by a Butler County grand jury.
Welsh was in county juvenile court Monday afternoon for a probable cause hearing. Because of his age and the seriousness of the crime, the case was a mandatory relinquishment to adult court.
Juvenile Judge Kathleen Romans listened to three law enforcement witnesses before making the ruling.
Butler County Sheriff’s Detective Joe Nerlinger said Welsh originally told him he shot 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 defense attorney Richard Hyde said that his client had originally told all the officers that he acted in self-defense after Hensley pointed the gun at him.
“This is clearly a case of self-defense,” Hyde said.
Romans ordered Welsh to be transferred from the juvenile detention center to the Butler County Jail to await the outcome of his case.
The judge set Welsh’s bond at $750,000 after hearing tearful comments from Hensley’s sister and mother.
“I don’t feel he (Welsh) is safe to be out on bond, given his history,” the victim’s mother told the judge.
Another teen Ross student, who faces a felony charge of grand theft of a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting, is scheduled to appear in court later this month. According to court documents, the teen removed his father’s .38-caliber handgun from his father’s bedroom and passed it to Welsh, who is not named in the documents.