13-year-old Michigan boys arraigned in murder conspiracy
Prosecutor: 'Goal was to kill more people than in Columbine'
May 18, 1999
PORT HURON, Michigan (CNN) -- As their classmates attended school under tight security, two 13-year-old boys were arraigned Tuesday in juvenile court on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in an alleged plot to kill students and faculty at Holland Woods Middle School.
St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Wendling said the boys were part of a "calculated scheme" to carry out a massacre.
"Your Honor, there were also sexual assaults that were to be perpetrated as part of the plan," Wendling said while asking the judge to deny bond. "There were attempts to purchase weapons, actual attempts. There were plans to commit an armed robbery to obtain weapons of higher firepower."
The boys planned to "take over the school and take hostages -- to place the individuals they had targeted, random and specific, in one enclosed area," Wendling added.
"This was to be a Colorado-style shooting and bombing. The goal was to kill more people than in Columbine," the prosecutor said.
St. Clair County Juvenile Judge Shane Burleigh set bond for the youngsters at $100,000 each.
Both boys sat quietly in court wearing prison garb from the juvenile detention center where they are being held. Neither of the accused showed any emotion.
Two 14-year-old boys also allegedly involved in the plot will be tried separately as adults. Justin Schnepp and Jedaiah Zinzo have already made an initial appearance in court and face arraignment May 27 on adult charges of conspiring to commit murder.
CNN is not identifying the 13-year-olds because they are being charged as juveniles.
A mother of one of them told CNN she talked to her son about the incident for the first time Tuesday and "he said he thought it was a joke. He thought the other boys were kidding around."
She described her son as a "typical kid" who had no plans to hurt anybody.
A preliminary hearing was set for June 1 to determine if the two will be bound over for trial. County Prosecutor Elwood Brown said that, if tried in juvenile court, the case will be heard by a 12-person jury just like a regular criminal case for adults.
And if the boys barely into their teens are convicted, the judge would have the option of sentencing them as juveniles or as adults, Brown said. An adult sentence would be mandatory life in prison.
Or they could serve time in a juvenile facility until age 21, at which time a judge would decide to release them or continue their sentence in a prison.
The four boys were arrested Thursday after two students who heard a group of boys talking about the alleged plot went to school officials and reported it. One of the two tipsters, a girl, also informed police.
The school district and authorities are taking the situation very seriously, especially since there is another unresolved situation: the pipe bomb found behind the school last week after the boys were arrested.
Port Huron's police chief said there were no leads to who planted the bomb, but he won't rule out the possibility of a connection to the four alleged conspirators.
Classes at all 21 district schools were canceled Friday after the pipe bomb was found. The schools re-opened Monday, angering some parents.
"The real criminal as far as I'm concerned is still out there -- the one who placed the bomb," said one parent.
School superintendent Bill Kimball insisted there was no danger, adding that with the increased security, school is now the safest place to be.
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