Trigger Word

trigger-word-fbBLOG POST #82: Hold on tight and be forewarned, this week the research topic is gruesome.

The crime occurred in the fall of 2013. Security video showed the 24-year-old high school math teacher leave her classroom and innocently walked down the hall to a female restroom. The video also showed the 14-year-old male student leave the same classroom, pull his hoody onto his head and follow the math teacher into the restroom.

The student hit the teacher which rendered her unconscious and then using a box cutter he stabbed her sixteen times in the neck and then slit her throat. He denied sexually abusing her; however the autopsy proved he did.

Twelve minutes after the student entered the restroom, he exited wearing a ski mask. Security video showed he returned with a recycling receptacle. Twenty-seven minutes after the young teacher entered the restroom; her body is inside the recycling receptacle. Still wearing the ski mask, the student dragged the receptacle to a wooded area behind the school.

After disposing of the teacher’s body, the teen used her credit card to attend a movie and purchase fast food.

The authorities received two seemingly unrelated calls for missing people that day. At first, the officers who found the missing teen were not aware the two missing people cases were connected. When the teen’s backpack was searched and the items found were bloody, they suspected the teen had been involved in a crime.

The teen’s mother was present for a portion of the interrogation; the teen didn’t want his mother in the room. During the interrogation, the teen admitted to killing his teacher. He sketched a diagram of where on her body he stabbed her and a map of where he had disposed of her body.

The teen was arrested and sent to a youth services detention facility. Because of his age, there were concerns about whether the teen had been properly Mirandized. In 2015, he went to trial and was found guilty of First Degree Murder, Rape, and Armed Robbery.

Here’s something I’ve not seen before in the course of my research: Prior to the sentencing hearing the defense attorney requested the judge restrict the wearing of pink clothing (the victim’s favorite color) to only her family. She felt the courtroom was no place for displays of sentiment or emotion. Of course the District Attorney disagreed. The judge ruled pink could be worn by anyone except government officials, members of the district attorney’s office and police officers.

The teen was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25-years for the murder conviction (the most possible for someone his age) and 40-years each for the other two convictions, all to be served concurrently. The judge purposely set the sentences for the rape and armed robbery convictions for longer than the murder conviction so that his first opportunity for parole would be after 40-years rather than 25-years.

When the teen was asked why he killed his teacher, he said she had insulted him and used a ‘trigger word’. He never said what the ‘trigger word’ was.

Worth mention: While awaiting trial for the murder of his teacher, and while at the youth services detention facility the teen followed a female counselor into a restroom. He assaulted her by choking her and beating her face and head. The counselor survived the attack. He’s not yet been to trial for the attempted murder of the female counselor.

It’s my firm belief that children with the capability to do what this student did, do exhibit warning signs either at home or school or both. What are your thoughts on this case?

Do you know of a school crime that you feel others should be made aware of – send me an email and we can discuss the details.

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Gangs in Schools

gangs-in-schools-fbBLOG POST #81: This week I’m sharing my research on a criminal case involving gang activity in a Texas high school. There wasn’t a clear link that two rival gangs were involved.

Before school began, students gathered in the cafeteria. A fight between two boys broke out, one boy staggered from the cafeteria and collapsed in the hallway. Some students attempted to carry him to the front to await emergency responders. He died before help arrived.

It was reported that the fight began after two boys bumped shoulders in passing. It was also reported one of the boys was a member of a local gang. The boy reported to be a gang member used a pocket knife and stabbed the victim numerous times in his abdomen.

A fight occurred the previous day, the fight in the cafeteria may have been retribution, however, the victim was not involved in the previous day’s incident so it’s possible his death was a case of mistaken identity.

The high school was not equipped with metal detectors. A quick search of their website showed the school still does not have metal detectors, most schools. What I thought was amiss was no mention of how student safety is addressed.

Both boys, in this case, were 17-years-old at the time. One is deceased and one is in his second year of a 20-year prison sentence for manslaughter. The jury considered murder with a life sentence, but believed there was no premeditation in the crime. The prison inmate will be eligible for parole after 10-years.

At the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Johnson said, “Gang violence has gotten out of control… I don’t think the school understood how rampant this has been.”

Here’s another post involving gang activity you may have missed: Why Was A Middle School Student Fleeing The Country?

I admit knowing very little about gangs or gang activity. I attended a Citizen’s Academy program through my county’s sheriff department. Every class was interesting, especially the presentation on gangs. If you’re interested in knowing more about gang tattoos, check out the National Gang Center newsletter-2016-summer.

What are your thoughts on gangs in school and how schools can stay vigilant?

Thanks for reading!


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Prom Date Rejection

Chalk words on walkway "Prom With Me?"High school can be difficult for many teenagers. Mustering the courage needed to ask a girl on a date can cause a boy to break out in hives. It’s no doubt scary for a teenage boy to ask a girl he’s been pining for to accompany him to the high school prom. Both possible rejection and possible acceptance bring stressful consequences. If rejected—fear of humiliation. If accepted—fear of performance.

It was the morning of prom, surveillance footage showed the two students talking and walking in a hallway that led them to a stairwell. Both students entered the stairwell together and thirty seconds later one was grasping to life.

A teacher found the two students in the stairwell. The male student was bloody and on top of the female student who had suffered multiple stab wounds to her torso and neck. The female student who started a dog walking business at 9-years-old, taught herself to play the guitar, volunteered at a VA Hospital, who was known to her friends for her friendliness and leadership did not survive the attack.

The male student, 17-years-old at the time was arrested and charged with murder. The prosecution argued the motive was rejection. The male student asked the female student to be his date for the junior prom and was rejected. Reports allege friends of the teen murderer said he told them he wouldn’t mind if the female student “was dead or hit by a bus.”

The defense rejected the claim that the motive was rejection. It was reported the defense held firm the teen murderer’s mental health at the time of the crime was to blame.

The male student eventually pleaded guilty rather than move forward with a trial. He faced a possibility of 60-years in prison. Because of a juvenile justice law that requires a review of juvenile cases with a possible long sentence, he was sentenced to 25-years.

The teen murderer will remain in a youth institution until 2019 when he turns 22, and then be moved to an adult facility. He will be eligible for parole after a total of 13-years have been served.

Judge John J. Ronan assured the family and friends of the victim that parole is not a given, it’s a possibility. The judge also told the victim’s mother her victim-impact statement was “one of the most memorable” he’d heard in his career and that her words “will never be forgotten.”

Judge John J. Ronan said to the teenager murderer, “She wanted to be your friend.”

Five days before her death, the victim tried on her blue prom gown for her family and friends. Her mother was reported to have said: in her wildest nightmares, she could not envision that the next time her daughter would wear her beautiful dress would be at her wake.

Worth Mentioning: The mother of the victim has filed a complaint in court against the School District Board of Education, the city, and the parents of the teen murderer. Her claim is that all three parties were made aware of the teen murderer’s instability and potential to harm himself and/or others and the parties did nothing with that knowledge. The outcome of this complaint is yet to be determined.

The complaint is very interesting. You can read the 17-page document here: Court Complaint

What are your thoughts on this case? Do you feel the district, city, and parents should be held accountable for their inaction? If you know of a crime that has taken place at a school that you feel others should be made aware of – email me and we can discuss the details.

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I am not insane! I am angry.

School shooter's journal entry, "I am not insane!"School shootings date back as far as 1850. Most people consider the possibility of a school shooting at their child’s school or at a school in their community as something that will never happen. It only happens to the schools and communities reported on the news. I felt the same way until the shooting at my community school was the news.

What can schools do to keep our children safe while in their custody? Will schools take on the look of prisons to keep danger out? Chain-link fences with barbed wire at the top? Metal detectors? Guard towers? Vehicle searches? Trained dogs? Something has to change because training staff and law enforcement on how to respond after the fact isn’t thwarting the event from taking place.

The crime this week happened one day in autumn; when most high school students are busy with school activities and sports. A Mississippi teen and reported member of a local satanic group had other things on his mind that day. Before the 17-year-old left for school he murdered his mother and then drove her car to school. He arrived at his high school dressed in what seems to be the standard attire of a school shooter—a trench coat to conceal a rifle.

He fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and her friend and then injured seven others. There may have been more carnage had it not been for the heroic act of the school principal who retrieved a handgun from his vehicle and demanded the boy stop as he was attempting to flee. Another student used his vehicle to block the shooter’s departure. The principal held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived.

A few months prior to the school shooting, the 17-year-old began his journal entry with, “I am not insane! I am angry.” When insanity was his defense for his actions, the jury didn’t buy it. He was found guilty of two counts of murder and seven counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her friend, and seven 20-year sentences for the seven counts of aggravated assault for the others injured during his rampage.

The shooter said his primary motivation for the shooting was revenge against the ex-girlfriend who’d broken up with him the previous year. The break-up had devastated him.

Along with more than 4,500 other criminals, he continues to reside at Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s oldest maximum security prison. The prison is so large it occupies 18,000 acres. The 17-year-old murderer will literally never leave the prison; there are three cemeteries for prisoners located on the property.

Jump forward fourteen years into his multiple life sentences, the convicted murderer asked the governor of Mississippi for clemency. He posted an ad to the governor in the newspaper stating he was sorry for his crimes and asked for a chance to live the new life that God has given him.

District Attorney Michael Guest said, “I want the public to feel safe… the odds of him getting that (clemency) are zero.”

Additional Information: Prior to his sentencing for the school shooting, the 17-year-old was found guilty of murdering his mother the morning of the school shooting. For beating and stabbing his mother to death he was also sentenced to life in prison.

Additional Information: Six other teens, reported members of a local satanic group, were also charged with conspiracy. Charges were later dropped. Two of the six teens were additionally charged with accessory to murder. One teen, the alleged leader of the satanic group and mastermind behind the school shooting, was sentenced to a boot camp-style rehabilitation program and five years of supervised probation. All charges against the other teen were dropped; however, he went on to be convicted of buying and using an unregistered machine gun several years later and was sentenced to four months in prison, four months of house arrest, and three years of probation.

What do you think about this criminal case? Do you know of a school crime you think others should know about? Email me and then we can discuss the case.

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