Girl arraigned in Massachusetts school bomb plot
NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A 17-year-old girl was arraigned Tuesday on charges connected with an alleged plot to kill students and teachers at New Bedford High School, according to a spokesman for the city's district attorney.
"(Amy Bowman) was arraigned and is scheduled for a pretrial conference on December 17," Eddie Sirois said.
Sirois could not confirm that Bowman, who was brought to court on a summons, was arraigned on the same charges brought against 17-year-old Eric McKeehan and two juveniles when they were arrested Saturday.
McKeehan and the juveniles, all charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit assault and battery and unlawful possession of ammunition, were ordered held without bail at Monday hearings.
A fifth teen, an unidentified 16-year-old whose involvement in the plot has not been released, was expected to be charged Wednesday.
Unlike the other defendants, Bowman was freed until her next court appearance, December 17.
"Sometimes we have to treat people differently based on the circumstances," prosecutor Raymond Veary said in a report by The Associated Press.
Bowman, like Eric McKeehan, was charged as an adult. The two 15-year-olds were charged in juvenile court.
According to the AP, police said Bowman agreed to smuggle guns in and take part in the shooting, but tipped off her favorite teacher, Rachel Jupin, about the details of the plan because she did not want to see the woman killed.
Authorities took action over the weekend because a letter found by a janitor at the school indicated an attack could take place as early as Monday. Investigators Sunday combed the 3,300-student school for explosives but found none.
At the school, headmaster Joseph Oliver said Tuesday things were "back to normal" after a 40 percent drop in attendance Monday.
The teens are suspected of a plot to shoot faculty and classmates and then kill themselves, police said.
Police said the chain of events leading to the investigation began October 17 after a student approached a faculty member and reported overhearing a bomb threat.
Among the evidence that turned up later were bomb components discovered in an attic and the letter detailing the alleged plot found by a school janitor.
But the mother of one of the suspects said the story has been overblown by overzealous cops, claiming the ammunition found on her son was a souvenir from a hunting trip. The mother of another suspect called it a rumor that took on a life of its own.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Silva disputed that claim.
"I personally spoke with police who had been involved in the investigation and asked, did they really feel that this was not a prank, a hoax? Was this something legitimate and would some incident come out of this if these arrests were not made? And they assured me absolutely," Silva said. "They felt confident that it would have been an incident if they hadn't persisted with the investigation."
The alleged plot resembles the attack carried out at Columbine High School in 1999, in which two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves. It was the nation's deadliest school shooting.
In student materials collected by police, "They talked about that they were going to try to outdo Columbine, that they were going to detonate an explosive device, that they were going to shoot students and faculty and eventually commit suicide themselves," New Bedford Police Chief Arthur Kelly said.
Silva said because of emergency plans that are in place at the high school, students "felt comfortable coming forth with concerns that they felt threatened their school."
Crisis counselors were available at the school to answer student and faculty concerns, Silva said.
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