Alleged NCHS shooter to be tried as a juvenile; journal read in court
(MCT) — BLOOMINGTON — Two pages of journal entries opened a window Tuesday into the mind of a 14-year-old boy accused of firing a handgun Sept. 4 in a Normal Community High School classroom.
The handwritten notes, read shortly before Judge Elizabeth Robb ruled that the youth will not be transferred to adult court, revealed a child controlled at times by voices urging him to commit acts of violence and vengeance.
Titled “Plan Delta,” the writings described a “revenge plot” where “no one should survive.” The journal material was presented in court by Assistant State’s Attorney Aaron Hornsby, who asked that the boy’s case be moved from juvenile to adult court, where he could face at least 30 years in prison if convicted on the weapons and armed violence charges.
In her decision to keep the case in juvenile court, where the harshest punishment is incarceration in a juvenile facility until he is 21, Robb cited a psychiatric evaluation of the youth by Dr. Robert Chapman.
Chapman noted the boy “admitted to hearing voices that were telling him not to talk and he had heard them for years. The voices were getting stronger, meaner and harder and they bothered him more,” said Robb.
During the three-hour hearing, the boy smiled frequently at witnesses he recognized and nodded to his parents and grandmother who sat behind the defense table.
The youth, whose name has not been disclosed in juvenile court records, was psychotic at the time of the incident, said Robb. A class of 28 students and their teacher, Derrick Schonauer, were held hostage as he fired four shots into the ceiling before he was subdued by the teacher, authorities said.
Testimony from police and the child’s therapist showed the conflicting sides of a teen whose struggles include bouts with depression, serious mental illness and disputes with his father. In more than six hours of interviews with police, the youth reportedly talked about plans he made a year earlier as a junior high student to bring guns to school.
“He made the statement he planned on doing the same thing at Evans Junior High but he didn’t have the guts to do it,” Normal police Detective Brad Park said of the boy’s interview.
Students in the high school classroom shared stories with police of being threatened with the handgun pointed in their faces. One girl who challenged the shooter was told “to shut up or he would make it so she could not talk,” Normal police Detective Jeremy Melville testified.
The judge said she was struck by the clear symptoms of mental illness displayed by the youth in the videotape she viewed of the police interview.
“He was talking to the walls, screaming back at what appeared to be voices. He spoke to inanimate objects in the room,” said Robb, calling the child’s behavior disturbing.
Kathy Vogel, a mental health therapist who has provided counseling to the boy since he has been detained at the county’s juvenile detention center, said he is making progress with services and two types of psychiatric medications.
“He wants help. The medications will change his life and he knows it,” said Vogel.
In his arguments to move the case to an adult court, Hornsby cited the extremely serious nature of the charges and the trauma caused to the students and school staff.
“He knew what he was doing was wrong. What was in his mind that day and what his plan was, only he knows,” said Hornsby.
That the incident was frightening and held the potential for even more tragedy was not disputed by Feldman.
“But on that day he was psychotic. He had the opportunity to shoot people and he didn’t,” said Feldman. Sending the boy to an overcrowded state penal system that lacks adequate funding for mental health services is not the answer, said Feldman.
The youth now faces a Dec. 17 bench trial on the 16 felony charges.
His father, Rodney Kinder, is charged with unlawful delivery of firearms for allowing the boy to have access to a handgun when he was under 18 and a rifle without a firearm owner’s identification card.