3 pupils charged in poison try

June 10, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Three fifth-grade students at Rodgers Forge Elementary School were charged yesterday with attempting to poison their teacher by lacing his root beer with rubbing alcohol, ammonia and bleach, Baltimore County police said.

The boys -- two of them 11 years old and the other 10 -- were arrested about 2:15 p.m. after being questioned by school authorities about the attempted poisoning of Richard William Jones during Wednesday's recess period, police said.

They have been charged as juveniles with attempted poisoning, a felony, said police Sgt. Michael D. Schwanebeck.

The Rodgers Forge incident occurred one day after a 16-year-old Columbia youth was charged with spraying carburetor cleaner into his auto shop teacher's can of Diet Coke at the Howard County School of Technology in Ellicott City.

Police said the incidents are not related and appear to be a coincidence. Neither teacher was seriously injured.

"We don't have any conjecture on why the kids did it," Sergeant Schwanebeck said. "They didn't give us any indication what their motive was."

According to police reports, Mr. Jones, 47, had left his can of root beer on his desk about 1:30 p.m. while he went to call in his students from lunch-time recess. He returned to take a sip of the root beer and, "as soon as he put it in his mouth, he knew something was wrong," police reports said.

rTC Mr. Jones did not swallow the fluid, having immediately spit it out. He rinsed out his mouth several times after feeling a burning sensation and reported the incident to school authorities, police said. The county's poison control center was notified, police said.

The can of soda had been laced with a combination of rubbing alcohol, ammonia and Clorox bleach, a mixture that investigators said could have been fatal if swallowed.

School officials interviewed several people in the classroom and determined who had poured the chemicals into the soda, said police, who refused to say how the identifications were made.

Police officers were called to the school yesterday and the boys were arrested and charged. All three had been released into their parents' custody last night.

Mr. Jones, who didn't have to go to a hospital, refused to comment when reached at his home last night.

Rodgers Forge Elementary Principal Lawrence P. Snow said last night that he hadn't been involved in the investigation, "and I don't know how serious it was. The teacher was at school all day, so I assume he's OK." Dr. Snow said he was unaware what disciplinary action, if any, the school would be taking. "I can't comment until I get more information," he said.

In Tuesday's incident in Ellicott City, Stephen Lemnah, 37, an auto shop teacher at the Howard County School of Technology, felt a burning in his mouth and throat after taking a sip of his soda and soon thereafter smelled carburetor cleaner, police said. Mr. Lemnah was taken by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital, where he was treated and released. He was back in the class room Wednesday.

A 16-year-old Columbia youth, who was charged as a juvenile on a misdemeanor count in the Ellicott City case, was being held in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County yesterday. He has been suspended indefinitely from the technical school until the state's attorney's office decides how to proceed.

The can of carburetor cleaner had a warning on the label that the material could cause death or blindness if swallowed.

"Hopefully, it'll never happen again," said Mr. Lemnah, of Frederick. "It's over with now. It hasn't changed my drive to teach."

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