***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***
Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.
BLOG POST #189: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific crime involving an 18-year-old high school student who idolized school shooters.
His mother lived for years with undiagnosed mental illness. When he was 5, she began leaving him home alone for extended periods. They often had no running water, power, or food—he’d go to neighbors and beg for food. He missed months of school at a time.
At the age of 14, his grandparents became his legal guardians resulting in his relocation to a different state.
He ran away from his grandparents when he was 17-years-old. Eventually found in the state where he’d previously lived, he was returned to his grandparents.
Less than six months later, the grandmother found her grandson’s red spiral journal. She’d read about his plans to kill students at a local high school and how he idolized previous school shooters. He’d selected the school to target by the flip of a coin.
The next day, his grandmother dropped him off at school and then went home to check a guitar case she’d seen him carry in and thought it had looked too heavy for a guitar—finding a rifle—and a new entry in the journal about robbing a convenience store the previous night, she called the police.
In his journal, he’d written, “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I NEED to make this count.”
According to his journal, he planned to plant pressure-cooker bombs under the bleachers, zip-tie door handles, and shoot kids in the hallway and gym. Lastly, he planned to commit suicide by his own hand or by cop. He’d also written his last will and testament.
Rather than go to trial, he pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder, unlawful possession of an explosive and first-degree robbery for the convenience store.
The school district spokesman said, “It really speaks to the importance of if you see something or hear something to notify the authorities. That’s what she [his grandmother] did. It could well have saved many, many lives, including her grandson’s life.”
In a sentencing memorandum, the defense focused on the severe child abuse he’d suffered in his early years.
His defense attorney wrote, “He was the victim of repeated trauma, including abandonment, abuse, and neglect, and he’s a prime example of an eighteen-year-old who was stunted in his maturity and understanding.”
At the sentencing, the judge said, “It was a plan, premeditated and contemplated. It was not an impulsive act.”
The judge told the defendant’s grandmother, “To me, ma’am, you are a hero.”
After much consideration about the young man’s childhood and actions, the judge sentenced him to 22.5 years in prison.
What are your thoughts about this case? Do you think the sentence was too lenient or excessive? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.
Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.
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