2 teens held on bomb charge

After explosion try failed, threatening note empties school

May 04, 2007|By Nick Shields and Gina Davis | Nick Shields and Gina Davis,sun reporters

Two teenage girls were being held on explosives charges last night after a threatening note led to the evacuation and early closing of a Baltimore County middle school.

No explosive materials were found at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School yesterday, but the girls told investigators that they had tried without success to set off a homemade bomb about two weeks ago at the Pikesville-area school, police said.

At least one of the girls had previously sent a text message referring to the recent violence at Virginia Tech and describing plans for a shooting at Sudbrook Magnet Middle, according to county police.

Police first became aware of the threats shortly after the killings in Blacksburg, but say they determined that no crime had been committed. Yesterday, after the school was made aware of a threatening note allegedly written by one of the girls - and a container of liquid found in one of the girls' lockers caused further alarm - students were pulled out of class, and the two girls were questioned by police.

The note referred to a "hit list," but no targets were named, said Sgt. Vickie Warehime, a county police spokeswoman. The school's principal, Sharon Robbins, said the mother of a girl who had received the note - but is not one of the girls charged - brought it to the school yesterday.

The liquid found yesterday in the locker turned out to be water, police said.

Police described the bomb that the girls tried to detonate in the school as being made of household materials, following instructions found on the Internet. The girls told police yesterday that when the materials did not explode, the bottle containing them was thrown from a window in the school onto a lower roof, police said.

The materials said to have been in the bottle can be used to create an explosion, but were not mixed in a way to do so, police said. Police declined to further describe the materials.

Several bottles were found yesterday on that roof, but all were empty, police said. No one was injured, police said.

The girls - one 14, the other 13 - were charged as juveniles with felony possession of an explosive or incendiary device, police said. They were being held last night at the Waxter Children's Center in Laurel to await a court review today, according to police.

Police did not name the girls because they were being charged as juveniles.

A man who said he is the father of one of the girls said yesterday that his daughter and the other accused teen had talked two weeks ago in the school's hallway about the recent Virginia Tech shootings.

"She said something to the effect of, `I'm going to try and break the record,'" he said his daughter admitted saying in a joking matter. "They were laughing throughout the whole conversation."

He said his daughter was punished at home, and that the school suspended her for eight days.

"We've gone into the difference between fake and real," the girl's father said. "This is not television, this is real. You don't talk about people's lives like that. She's clear on that. She's to tears on that."

He also said that while his daughter was wrong not to tell authorities right away about the alleged attempt to detonate an explosive, she apparently told investigators yesterday that she purposefully substituted an ingredient to prevent an explosion.

About 1,050 students attend Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, which offers programs in music, drama, visual arts, world languages and environmental and earth sciences.

The school sent a letter home to parents after the incident two weeks ago, Robbins, the principal, said.

Robbins said she was meeting with a teacher yesterday morning when a parent came to the school's office with an urgent message. After reading the note that the mother said her daughter had exchanged on Wednesday with one of the girls who was eventually charged, the principal immediately contacted police and evacuated the school, she said.

"I was concerned about one thing and one thing only - the safety of our students," she said in an interview last night.

Seventh-grade student Tiara Griffin, 13, said that she was outside looking for leaves for a science project yesterday when she noticed police searching the grounds. A teacher ushered her and other students inside shortly before the principal announced that the school was to be evacuated, Tiara said.

Robbins said she phoned in a voice message about 12:30 p.m. to parents on the school system's mass-messaging service to inform them of the evacuation and early dismissal.

Students were dismissed about 1:30 p.m.

Worried parents waited outside the school, scanning the crowd for their children. Susie Nance said that she rushed to the school after receiving a cell phone call from her daughter, a seventh-grader.

Tiara's mother, Mary Griffin, came to Sudbrook after receiving the automated phone call. She wondered why the girls involved in the incident two weeks ago were allowed to return to school.

"They need to take this seriously and get them some help," Griffin said.

Robbins said she sent out another phone message about 5 p.m. yesterday, and plans to send home a letter today.

The principal said a regular schedule of classes would be held today, but counselors would be available all day, and she encouraged students and parents to come to them or to her if they want to talk about their concerns.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com gina.davis@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.

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