Schools dispute allegations over suspect's essay

January 08, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Ryan Thomas Furlough, the Centennial High School senior accused of poisoning his friend with cyanide last week, was not assigned to write an essay from the point of view of a murderer, Howard County Superintendent John R. O'Rourke said yesterday.

Furlough was told to "put himself in the shoes" of a murderer as part of a ninth-grade English assignment, his lawyer and mother said Monday.

"There is no substance to the allegations that the assignment given to Ryan required him to write a composition from the viewpoint of a murderer," said O'Rourke in a news release e-mailed to The Sun on Tuesday.

Furlough's parents said the essay was the first sign that he suffered from depression and noted he had been counseled by psychiatrists and taking antidepressants ever since, said his lawyer, Jan O'Connor.

Furlough, 18, of the 3500 block of Rhode Valley Trail in Ellicott City, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and other crimes. He is accused of putting potassium cyanide in Benjamin Edward Vassiliev's can of soda Friday as the two played video games at Furlough's home.

Furlough, who was romantically interested in Vassiliev's girlfriend, bought the cyanide on the Internet in October, according to police charging documents. Furlough was planning to commit suicide after he killed his longtime friend, according to O'Connor.

Vassiliev, 17, a junior at Centennial High School, was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital on Friday and was reported to be in critical condition Monday. Hospital officials would not release any information on Vassiliev's condition yesterday at the request of his parents.

O'Rourke did not read Furlough's paper but reviewed the assignment, which he said instructed students to select an occupation that interests them and to describe a typical day in the profession.

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