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Shooting plot foiled at Fla. high school after one accomplice broke silence

Published: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 8:48 a.m. CST

(MCT) — ORLANDO, Fla. — The two boys swore an oath to each other that they would tell no one about their suffering. Instead, they would show it.

They could hear the voices. They cut themselves in their severe depression. They fantasized about killing while playing violent video games, including "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare." So, together they would end it all — for themselves, and for a group of students on their hit list.

In each other, the 15-year-old and 16-year-old found an equal — a confidante and a co-conspirator — as they planned their final act of violence against classmates at Timber Creek High School in Florida last month.

But 48 hours before the planned attack, one broke the vow of silence. He warned a classmate to skip school Jan. 14. Eventually, officers stepped in. The boys were temporarily committed — not arrested — but that detail and many others were not released until late Friday — too late for some parents of the school in southeast Orange County.

Parents received a brief automated telephone message Jan. 14 from the school about a plot to hurt pupils that was thwarted because of a courageous student.

"When I heard the first five words of the message about a shooting plot, I was overwhelmed by emotion," said Madeline Feliciano, who has two daughters at the high school. "But when I heard the two kids had been apprehended, I was relieved."

She said she is thankful nothing happened but is disappointed the school did not provide more information.

Even now, little is publicly known about the plot.

The names of the boys were not released because they are juveniles. Large sections of the report released Friday are blacked out. And the Orange County Sheriff's Office won't say why the boys were not arrested.

It also won't say where the boys are now. The Sheriff's Office is recommending murder-conspiracy charges for the teens and forwarded that suggestion to the State Attorney's Office in a report with disturbing details about the boys' behavior in the shadow of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., and other attacks.

One was a freshman. The other a sophomore.

Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said students making threats against each other or teachers is not an "infrequent occurrence, unfortunately, in a urban school district with 185,000 students."

But mentally ill students concocting a hit list — "That's relatively rare," Sublette said. "Some are more serious and this one was very, very serious."

On Jan. 12, the Timber Creek High student and friend of the alleged conspirator making threats reported the text messages to their mother and showed her photos of the teen holding a firearm on Facebook, an Orange County Sheriff's Office report says.

The student who reported the plot said he or she talked often with the troubled boy and knew about his suicidal thoughts.

Deputies met with the two alleged plotters, who admitted to having voices tell them to do "really crazy stuff" and having problems in school with their group of classmates, ages 14 to 16.

One of them said he imagined himself jumping off an elevated pedestrian foot bridge he saw every day on the way to the bus stop to end his own life. He was tired of hearing the voices.

His parents told deputies they noticed their son's demeanor but it is unclear whether they sought help.

The other plotter said the voices had been haunting him since the sixth grade and he cut himself in response to their taunts. His first cut was on the inside of his upper thigh — where no one could see it.

He told deputies he lost his faith in God because the voices didn't go away. They also became more aggressive, the report indicates.

The boy planned to steal his father's semi-automatic rifle and pistol and together with his similarly disturbed accomplice, they would open fire on a specific group of students and random students.

They didn't tell their parents, fearing one or both would be sent away. Someone advised one of the boys "to think about other things and to do things he likes when he hears the voices."

Sheriff's Capt. Angelo Nieves wouldn't say how close the teens came to carrying out their depression-driven plot. He noted they never set foot on Timber Creek's campus with guns.

"The detectives conducted the investigation to its fullest and turned that over for follow-up by the state attorney," he said.

When confronted by detectives, the boys cooperated and talked about their problems.

"Obviously it's a tragedy avoided and we are dealing with two youngsters who need help and will get it long term," Nieves said. "We were very glad that this didn't happen."

Some parents think authorities should have shared more information.

School officials and local politicians said more wasn't provided because they didn't know more until deputies made the information public Friday.

"We are bit leery about publicizing it too much. We don't want to promote what these kids are doing," Sublette said. "Our primary concern is that parents and students feel safe in school and know we are doing everything to keep these threats from becoming reality."

Parent Desiree DaSilva said she understands the school's position but parents need to know.

"It's a double-edged sword. If we are notified of every crime at school we will live in fear," she said, whose son graduated from Timber Creek in 2010. "But we don't want to live in the dark."

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