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Tenn. teen pleads guilty to killing principal

MEMPHIS — A Memphis teen who police say studied close-combat battle tactics and sharpened his knife the night before he fatally stabbed his high school principal pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Tuesday.

Eduardo Marmolejo, 18, told Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward that he accepted a plea deal and a 35-year sentence without parole. He then apologized to the family of Suzette York, whom he stabbed multiple times and left for dead in a pool of blood in a classroom on Aug. 10, 2011.

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‘‘I apologize for my bad behavior,’’ Marmolejo said. ‘‘I’m not the same man I used to be. I’m a better man.’’

Marmolejo was charged with first-degree murder after the attack on York, 49, on the third day of school.

York was Marmolejo’s principal at Memphis Junior Academy, a private school affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Marmolejo was 16 at the time of the killing, but a juvenile court judge determined that the teen should be tried as an adult. He was indicted in February 2012.

Prosecutor Reggie Henderson and defense attorney Leslie Ballin disclosed weeks ago that they were working on a plea deal. As part of the deal, Marmolejo agreed to a sentence that is longer than the 15-year to 25-year sentence he would have faced upon conviction of second-degree murder at trial.

Henderson said he was confident that a trial would have resulted in a conviction, but he took into consideration the wishes of York’s husband in avoiding a trial.

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