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Teen pleads guilty in rush hour shooting death of child's mother

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A 19-year-old from St. Paul admitted in court he could have fatally shot Michelle Ploetz, the mother of his child, while the three were in an SUV last spring – but said he was high on drugs and can't remember anything, the Pioneer Press reports.

Timothy Scott Hendricks pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder in connection with the April 16 incident, in which Ploetz was shot in the head in a vehicle during rush hour that afternoon. Hendricks' and Ploetz's 8-month-old son was in a car seat next to the victim.

Her father, John Ploetz, was driving the car at the time. Authorities say John Ploetz ran from the scene after Hendricks also shot at him.

Hendricks entered a Norgaard plea – when a defendant admits they don't remember the incident, but "reasonably believes" there's enough evidence against him to result in a conviction, Minnesota Lawyer explains.

According to the Star Tribune, Hendricks said in court he was under the influence of Xanax and ecstasy and had no memory of that day.

Michelle Ploetz, a student at St. Catherine University, was found in the back of the 2004 Toyota Highlander next to her son. She was still breathing and was rushed to Regions Hospital. She died two days later.

A YouCaring page in support of her son was set up with the help of Teeny Bee Botique in St. Paul. They're taking monetary donations, as well as clothing, toys and diapers.

"It didn't take long for us to realize that although Michelle was tiny in stature, she had a huge heart. She loved that little boy with every ounce of her," the page says. "[We] are so blessed to be a part of such an amazing community that is coming together to ensure that TJ gets the life that his beautiful mother would have wanted."

Family dinner preceded shooting

According to the criminal complaint filed in April:

Michelle Ploetz and her father met Hendricks for dinner at a St. Paul restaurant on the day of the shooting. Hendricks had been released from jail on April 9 after serving time for assault. The meeting with the Ploetzes allowed him to see his son and to discuss the steps Hendricks needed to take for him to share custody of the child.

When they left the restaurant, John Ploetz was driving with the two adults and the baby in the back seat. Ploetz told police he heard a pop, then felt something whiz past his head and a bullet pierced the windshield. Ploetz got out and tried to get control of Hendricks’ gun, but Hendricks shot at him twice more before fleeing.

Hendricks was arrested a short time later. He later told police “I was hearing voices in my head and I just snapped, and I couldn’t tell you really what happened.”

The complaint also mentions Hendricks has been on a suicide watch at the Ramsey County jail. Police say he jumped over a railing and suffered a broken pelvis and jaw. He was scheduled to undergo surgery two days after the shooting.

Family members told media outlets they were concerned about Hendricks' addiction and mental health problems.

Jennifer Hendricks, Timothy Hendricks’ older sister, said she tried dozens of times to get her brother admitted to a hospital for drug and psychiatric treatment, the Star Tribune reported. On each occasion he was sent home with medication but was never admitted.

She and her fiance raised Timothy Hendricks and another brother after their father died in 2004, the Pioneer Press reported.

John Ploetz told police he had also tried to get Hendricks committed three different times because he was afraid Hendricks would kill their entire family, according to the Star Tribune.

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