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Kalamazoo mass murderer said he wanted to plead guilty "for quite a while"

Jason Dalton moments before pleading guilty to six counts of murder and several other charges at the Kalamazoo County Courthouse on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dalton, who was driving for Uber at the time shot eight people killing six of them, on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. Opening statements in the trial were scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 8. (WWMT/Joel Bissell, Pool, MLive.com)

Surrounded by deputies and wearing a smirk on his face, Jason Dalton pleaded guilty in Kalamazoo County Court Monday to all 16 felony charges he faced from the 2016 shooting spree that killed six people and seriously injured two others.

“Yes, I've wanted this for quite a while,” Dalton told the judge.

The former Uber driver made the surprise decision to admit to mass murder the day before opening statements were set to begin in his trial.

His defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, said Dalton made the sudden decision for personal reasons, so that his family and the families of his victims wouldn't have to go through a trial.

“It took me a little by surprise because throughout our discussions he was intent on going to trial. Though I think he was influenced these last few days by his family,” Solis said.

Dalton pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree premeditated murder, two counts of attempted murder and eight felony firearms charges. The plea comes nearly three years after the night of terror that forever changed countless lives in Kalamazoo County.

“The why question is one that haunts us; you know everyone wants to know,” said Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting.

Dalton gunned down eight people, killing six and seriously injuring two others, between Uber fares in February 2016. Nearly three years later, Dalton decided to plead guilty to all charges.

“The victims benefit from this. This is their best-case outcome, it's our best-case outcome,” Getting said.

It’s unusual for anyone to plead guilty to first-degree premeditated murder, Getting said, because the charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The guilty plea limits Dalton’s options to appeal his conviction.

“Yes, that's what was just explained to me,” Dalton told the judge.

Dalton's sudden decision to plead guilty comes after his attorney said Friday that an insanity defense was not an option. A forensic evaluation found Dalton did not meet the legal definition of being insane.

“I can tell you in private he's been remorseful through several of my meetings with him," Solis said.

Dalton entered his plea while facing a judge with his back to the families of his victims. Tiana Carruthers, one of the two survivors from the Feb. 20, 2016, shooting spree, bursts into tears as Dalton told the court he intended to kill her and the seven other shooting victims.

Without the answers and remorse some of the victims’ families hoped to get at trial, aside from a smirk, 48-year-old Dalton showed no emotion in court.

"It's something that is always there that never goes away. When you think it goes away, it comes back," said Robert Reynolds, son of Judy Brown.

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