by Gene Hartley
5:40 PM CST, December 20, 2012
WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- A high school student is accused of telling other students and a teacher that he liked to pretend to be Hitler and threatening to bring guns to school and kill people. The teacher and her students also told police that the student threatened to “come to her house and make her watch while he killed her entire family and then kill her.”
A Howell County prosecutor charged Zackary Wilmoth, 18, on Thursday with two counts of making a terroristic threat. One charge says Wilmoth made the threat “for the purpose of frightening ten or more people.” The other charge says he made the threat “with reckless disregard of the risk of causing the closure of any portion of the West Plains High School.”
According to the probable cause statement used as the basis of the charges, Wilmoth made his threat during an 8th-hour class on Monday afternoon. The comments came as West Plains students, teachers and parents were on edge anyway because of rumors circulating that there was going to be a mass shooting or mass suicide pact carried out at the school on Friday.
The school district issued a statement on Sunday that said it had tracked down the origin of the rumors and didn't believe students would be at risk on Friday. On Thursday, however, apparently based on continued discussions in West Plains, plus the charges against Wilmoth, the district canceled classes on Friday.
"For Friday, December 21, school will not be in session for West Plains and the surrounding rural schools. Our schools continually place the safety of your child as our top priority. In light of recent events both locally and across the country, please take this time to spend with family and friends. The West Plains area school districts wish you a Happy Holiday Season and look forward to the return of our students on Jan. 7," the district said in a statement on its website.
The probable cause statement against Wilmoth says the teacher reported “Wilmoth had stated that he is the person that will be bringing guns to school and killing everyone later this week.”
The teacher told the principal that she told Wilmoth that his comments were out of line. That’s when she says Wilmoth said, “if he was going to do it that he would line up the students in the classroom kitchen and have them kneel down and shoot them one by one in the head with a gun, and that he would be bringing guns to school during the Wednesday Christmas assembly and killing students. (The teacher) stated that she could save everyone by reporting him to the school and authorities.”
The teacher says she told Wilmoth at that point that he was in a lot of trouble. At that point, she told police, Wilmoth said he knew where she lived and would come to her house to kill her and her family. Police say other students heard that conversation between the teacher and Wilmoth. The students say they also heard Wilmoth talk “about making a falce/fake bomb and taking it to the Post Office mailbox.”
A judge set Wilmoth’s bond at $50,000 and said he’d have to post $10,000 of it to be released from jail. The Howell County Sheriff’s Department said Wilmoth was not in jail on Thursday afternoon.
If he’s convicted of the two charges, Wilmoth could face up to a seven-year prison sentence for the first threat and up to a four-year prison sentence for the second threat.
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