Crime & Courts

Father defends teen charged in alleged Haysville school plot

Haysville Middle School (May 18, 2016)
Haysville Middle School (May 18, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

The father of one of the eighth-graders charged with plotting a murderous attack at Haysville Middle School said Friday that his son has been “depressed and agitated” and bullied at school but is not capable of such a crime.

According to court documents released Friday, four Haysville Middle School students charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder joined in “conversation and plan to mass kill individuals” at their school. The court records identify three of the four teens who are charged.

The Eagle is not naming them because they have been charged as juveniles.

The father interviewed by The Eagle said of his son: “He’s never been in trouble before in his life.” He said he is shocked by the charges and that based on his knowledge, his son had no means to carry out an attack. “I do have a hard time believing it.”

‘He started withdrawing’

Although his son has suffered from bullying, he said, he didn’t think his son was capable of attacking his school.

He described his son as “happy, kind, generous” until he went to middle school, when “all of the sudden, he started withdrawing, and I know it’s because of this bullying and harassment” at school.

When he asked his son what was behind the bullying, his son wouldn’t say. The man said he had noticed his son being “depressed and agitated” and tried to get him to open up, but the 14-year-old wouldn’t.

The man’s son is one who, according to a court document, has been ordered to have a psychological examination.

The father also criticized how police have handled the arrests: “I really find it disturbing that they went to the school and arrested them, because now all the kids know” the teens’ identities.

Parents of the other teens who are charged couldn’t be reached Friday or wouldn’t talk to a reporter.

What charges say

The charges released Friday said the teens “did enter into an agreement” around May 12 “to commit a crime or assist in the commission of the crime of Murder In The First Degree.”

The court documents for three of the teens, which had been sealed by a judge, were unsealed by late Thursday afternoon. Those three named in the criminal complaints are all 14 years old. The court documents for the fourth boy remain sealed, apparently because he is 13, below the age at which juvenile court records can be open. The name of the 13-year-old had been redacted in the court records released to The Eagle on Friday morning.

All three of the 14-year-olds live in Haysville, the records show. All three have been appointed attorneys to defend them. One of the attorneys would not comment; the other two could not be reached.

The three have been ordered to be held at the Juvenile Detention Facility, the records say.

Their next hearing is June 16.

They don’t have any other cases in juvenile court, according to records.

The background

Earlier this week, the Haysville police chief told The Eagle that potential victims of the plot to attack Haysville Middle School would have included students, faculty and administrators. Authorities arrested the teens on May 12 after social media posts indicated they were plotting to bomb the school and shoot people on school grounds, Police Chief Jeff Whitfield said.

According to police, a student noticed social media posts in a “hosted chat room” and told his mother. She reported it to school officials, who immediately told school resource officers, police Lt. Kevin Sexton said. “Then the investigation started immediately from there.” The investigation is ongoing, so police are limited in what they can divulge, he said.

Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle

Tim Potter: 316-268-6684, @terporter