‘Smoke bomb’ sequel in Tennessee?
In rural Dunlap, Tennessee, six teenage girls were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit criminal homicide on Wednesday night after school officials discovered a list of 300 names in a school garbage can that police contend was a list of people to be killed, according to the Associated Press. The Sequatchie County High School students, ages 14 to 15, also allegedly posted death threats on a MySpace page. Police would not reveal the full contents of the posting, which has been removed, but school officials did say the list included the names of Sequatchie students and faculty members, as well as the names of Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, and the Energizer Bunny.
The circumstances are reminiscent of last year's case of four Albemarle teenage boys who were arrested and charged with conspiring to murder and blow up schools. It was later revealed that MySpace postings made up much of the case against the boys while no specific plot was ever uncovered and no bomb-making materials were found. A Charlottesville jury later returned a not-guilty verdict in the trial of the one boy who appealed his closed-trial guilty verdict.
Additionally, the initial public discourse about the Tennessee case seems remarkably similar to that of the Albemarle arrests, specifically with regard to the 1999 massacre at Colorado's Columbine High School. Roger Thompson, a professor of criminal justice told the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "It's Columbine... It taps the nerve of every parent. It needs to be taken seriously." Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos said last March that his handling of the case was "absolutely colored by Columbine," and later revealed in an interview on WINA that one reason he took the threats so seriously was that the alleged "ringleader's" birthday is April 20, the same date as the Columbine shooting.