By Joe Reavis
Two former Wylie East High School students pled guilty to murder Monday in the March 8, 2014 death of classmate Ivan Mejia.
Adam Staup, 17, and Brenden Bridges, 18, entered the pleas with no plea bargain agreements, known as an “open plea,” before 401st District Judge Mark Rusch. The judge explained to the defendants that he had complete leeway in assessing punishment up to life in prison.
The two have been jailed for more than a year in the brutal death of Mejia, who was a senior at WEHS. Bridges and Staup were juniors and were both 16 years of age. They were ruled to be tried as adults last July.
“Did you commit this crime exactly as it is set out in this indictment?” Rusch asked, and received affirmative answers in reply.
Facts of the case state that Bridges and Staup lured Mejia to a location behind Wylie East High School on March 8, 2014, where the victim was strangled and beaten. The motive for the murder was a romantic rivalry between Bridges and Mejia for the affections of a girl.
After Mejia was killed, his body was placed in the trunk of a vehicle and transported to a site, near Firewheel Mall in Garland. Attorneys from both sides noted that a grave had already been dug at the site.
In opening statements, defense attorneys painted their clients as immature and lacking the sophistication to fully understand their actions, or the consequences of their actions.
The defense asked for 20-year prison terms. The range of the punishment on a murder conviction is 5 to 99 years.
Rusch swore in nine witnesses who started testimony Monday afternoon after the court reconvened from a lunch recess.