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Ohio man accused of plotting Columbine-style school attack

Saturday, April 26, 2008

LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- A man accused of e-mailing an Indiana teenager about conducting a Columbine-style attack on two schools was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, authorities said Friday.

Lee Billi, 33, of the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, was arrested Thursday and was being held in the city jail, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor said. A 16-year-old Indiana boy was arrested earlier in the week.

Lakewood police chief Tim Malley said he didn't know how far along the two were in the alleged plan but said they were talking about a Columbine-type plot.

A computer was removed from Billi's home in Lakewood in addition to computer disks, papers, books and three partial boxes of handgun ammunition, Malley said.

Authorities said the two exchanged e-mails Sunday and discussed mass murders at the same time at the teen's school near South Bend, Ind., and at another location. Malley said he didn't know the other location but it didn't involve a Lakewood school.

Billi lives in a two-story brick apartment complex within view of the Lakewood High School football stadium on school grounds. The superintendent sent word through a secretary that he was unaware of any plot involving Lakewood schools.

A judge in Indiana on Friday ordered the 16-year-old boy, whose name was not released because of his age, to remain in a juvenile detention center and undergo a psychological evaluation.

St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Peter Nemeth said the teen must stay in detention "for his own protection and protection of society."

At the teen's home near downtown South Bend, authorities said they found more than 100 knives and several illegal snakes.

Authorities said a school officer investigating an unrelated threat at the teen's school, Penn High, discovered Internet postings in which the teen discussed his support for the Columbine shooters, a reference to the 1999 massacre at a suburban Denver high school in which two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher before committing suicide.

School officials questioned the teen about his postings and learned he had exchanged e-mails Sunday with an unidentified person in which they discussed conducting "Columbine-like mass murders" at the same time Sept. 11 at Penn and another location, St. Joseph prosecutor Michael Dvorak said Thursday.

The boy lived in his deceased grandfather's house on South Bend's northwest side in a rundown neighborhood scattered with vacant houses. Most neighbors declined to talk Friday.

But Allen McBride, who lives seven houses down, said although the boy hadn't always lived there, he had seen him grow up for years while visiting his grandfather.

"He was an average kid, but kind of strange," McBride said. "He came down here one day with a snake wrapped around his arm and said, 'Do you want to buy a snake?' I said, 'Man, get back there.'"

The boy was handcuffed and shackled during a detention hearing Friday. When he entered the courtroom he looked as though he had been crying, and sat with his face buried in his hands as he waited for about 20 minutes while other cases were heard.

When his case was called, he stood before the judge waiting for his mother, who was outside, then leaned as she hugged him. His uncle placed his hand on the boy's shoulder.

His family declined to comment after the hearing.


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