NEWS- Welcomed back: Alleged bomb hoaxer back in school
Editor's note: Shortly after this story was published, the Hook learned that all the allegations pertaining to the presence of a teenager on the premises of Henley Middle School were false. This means that we as journalists had erred not only in producing a grossly inaccurate story but also by ignoring our own internal policies by accepting the word of a single unidentified teen source for these allegations. As we subsequently reported the week after this story appeared, this was a regrettable error, and it is one we do not wish to repeat. This story shall remain online as evidence of the mistake–editor
On the morning of March 27, Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle Schools went into lockdown mode and were eventually evacuated when custodial staff found suspicious materials near the buildings. Dozens of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials were on the scene within hours of the discovery to quash what Albemarle police Lt. John Teixeira called "a serious threat."
Two days later, police revealed that among the objects found were a cylinder with protruding wires, a dark-colored tube taped to a pole, and a note with a dripping red stain and an "anarchy" symbol. Additionally, they announced the arrest of two Henley students, each charged with four counts of constructing and/or placing a hoax bomb device. And while the two students are scheduled for trial in juvenile court Wednesday, May 9, apparently Albemarle County school officials don't find one of them too threatening.
According to a Henley student, one of the two alleged hoaxers returned to school Monday, April 23 having served a 10-day suspension for his part in the scare. [The date was incorrect in the print edition. It has been corrected in this online edition.]
"It was a pretty normal day," the student says. "Nobody made mention of it."
The eighth grader also says that wasn't the first indication that Henley did not consider the accused student a menace. On March 29, when the school held its annual Expo Night, where students show off their best work in a talent show and a series of exhibits, the would-be felon reportedly walked freely on school grounds and attended the event only hours after police had announced his arrest.
"When I saw him, he was surrounded by people," the Henley source says. "People were hugging him, saying 'I can't believe someone snitched on you.' I can't believe it, either. He's the nicest guy."
This is a different situation from the last alleged threat to the Albemarle school system. Last February, when four students were arrested on charges of conspiring to blow up area schools, they all spent at least three months in jail, including one student who was found not guilty when he appealed the juvenile court verdict.
The evidence in the cases is also different. In 2006, the prosecution's case consisted of verbal and text-messaged threats to two schools, and statements the students made in lawyer-less police interrogations that the accused students' parents branded "false confessions." However, no bomb-making materials were produced. In the Henley and Brownsville cases, police found the actual threatening items, even though they turned out to be fake.
"Well, it is an election year, and it seems like they're putting their finger to the wind to see what the public wants," says the father of the child who appealed his conviction and won.
"It's upsetting to me," continues the dad, "because it means that either they're treating this kid improperly or that they treated my son and the two other boys [who pleeded not guilty] improperly. Are they implying they made a mistake before? If so, they ought to come clean and clean up the other kids' records."
Neither Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos nor defense attorney Richard DeLoria, who will defend one of the two newly accused students, would comment specifically on the case, citing the closed nature of the juvenile justice system. However, when asked how last year's school bomb case affected the handling of this current case, Camblos says, "We let it be known they were hoaxes early on," and adds that it was the county's intent to "calm the fears of parents."
If convicted, the two juveniles could be incarcerated until they turn 21.
Following the bomb scare of March 27, one of the two students accused of taking part in the hoax was back on Henley's grounds only hours after police announced his arrest to the media.
FILE PHOTO BY HOOK STAFF