Columbus courts update: Teen Ethan C. Welch pleads guilty to murder of grandmother

A 17-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing his grandmother when he was 15 pleaded guilty today and was sentenced to life in prison.

Ethan C. Welch admitted to stabbing maternal grandmother Brenda Cook, 59, multiple times with a steak knife and meat skewer outside their Avalon Road home in Columbus on Aug. 30, 2009.

Gail Stewart, Welch’s paternal grandmother, spoke with him immediately after his guilty plea and sentencing.

“I told him God was still in control and I love him,” she said.

Welch said nothing during Monday’s hearing, except to say “guilty” when Muscogee County Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen asked how he would plead.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly told Allen that pleading to voluntary manslaughter wasn’t on the table.

“It was a brutal murder,” Kelly added. “Our recommendation is that he receive a life sentence.”

Prosecutors charged Welch as an adult, and Allen said he had no alternative but to sentence him to life in prison. Welch will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

“He didn’t want the family to have to go through the difficulties of a trial,” said public defender Stephen Craft, who represents Welch. “We’re going to have to ask the court to accept the plea to felony murder.”