Two students accused of threats at Poplar Bluff schools
Friday, October 15, 2010
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Two Poplar Bluff High School students could face charges after allegedly writing unrelated threats in restrooms earlier this week.
The first involved a bomb threat and was found Monday on a girl's restroom stall in the A Building, while the second involved a threat of "mayhem" and was found in a boy's restroom the next day.
Sonya Louis Lampston, 18, of the 200 block of Hampton Court was arrested at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday at her residence on suspicion of making a terrorist threat. She is accused of making the bomb threat, while a 14-year-old male is accused making the second threat.
"We were notified that a bomb threat had been found on an interior wall of the high school; we immediately responded," explained Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley. "Our officers and detectives took appropriate measures in case this was a legitimate threat."
Those measures, Whiteley said, included an increased police presence of both uniformed and plainclothes officers, security assessment and a search of the buildings.
Whiteley said officers also contacted the Southeast Missouri Regional Bomb Team to put it on standby, as well as agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, "in case a device was found or we would need specialized equipment."
As officers investigated the alleged threats, Poplar Bluff R-1 Superintendent Chris Hon sent a letter to parents Tuesday as an explanation for the increased police presence on campus.
According to police Detective Bryce Colvin's report, he met with school officials, including assistant principal Mike Ivie, Monday in regard to the alleged bomb threat.
Ivie reported he was alerted by a student, who had found a written bomb threat in an A Building restroom, Colvin said. The message said: "There will be a bomb threat Tuesday at elven ocloke AM."
Assistant Principal Sheldon Tyler, Colvin said, recalled a confrontation he had had with a student "minutes prior to the discovery of the message."
At about 9:15 a.m. Monday, Tyler had reprimanded Lampston for excessive tardies and violating the school's dress code, said Colvin, who asked why Lampston was being suspected.
School officials, he said, reported they had reviewed the school's surveillance system and tracked Lampston's movement after leaving Tyler's office at about 9:25 a.m.
The surveillance footage showed Lampston entering the A Building restroom, where the message was found, and exiting less than a minute later. Lampston's mother, he said, checked the teen out of school at about 10:45 a.m.
The alleged threat was found at 12:25 p.m., Colvin said.
Ivie retrieved a handwritten assignment completed by Lampston and upon comparing it to the handwritten message, Colvin said, similarities were found.
At 4 p.m., Colvin said, Lt. David Sutton and Capt. Mike Elliott contacted Lampston at her residence, where she was questioned and asked to provide three handwriting examples. The officers, he said, also found similarities in Lampston's handwriting with the message.
While at the residence, according to Elliott's report, Lampston reported "she had never wrote on the bathroom walls."
Tuesday morning, Colvin said, Elliott and Detective Leigh Morgan returned to Lampston's residence, where she agreed to talk to the officers.
Lampston, Colvin said, reported arriving at school at about 7:15 a.m. and completing her first three hours of classes.
During the fourth hour, "she was called to the office for an office referral that recommended detention. Mr. Tyler noticed she was wearing (pajamas) and had her call her mother to bring different pants," Colvin said.
Lampston, who was unable to contact her mother, was sent back to class and subsequently checked out by her mother from school, Colvin said.
Lampston denied going into an A Building restroom, and told officers she had gone into one in B Building, Colvin said.
When confronted with her "known locations" from the surveillance footage, "Sonya changed her story" indicating she had gone into the A Building restroom to send a text message to her mother, Colvin said. She also denied having anything to write with at that time, but indicated she had pencils and her cellular telephone in a folder, he said.
On Tuesday, Elliott said, a search warrant was applied for and Lampston again was contacted and told of her rights.
"During the interview, she advised she did write the threat in the bathroom," Elliott said.
Lampston, he said, further admitted to writing the message with a pencil from her folder after she left Tyler's office.
When asked if she planned to build and detonate a bomb, "she replied 'no,'" Elliott said. "When asked why she wrote the message, she replied she was mad."
Lampston was booked and subsequently released pending review of the case by the Butler County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Also on Tuesday, Elliott said, the police department received another report of a "writing on the wall of a boy's bathroom. This one didn't allege a bomb threat; it alleged mayhem."
This threat was to "commit mayhem" on Wednesday, Elliott said. The message, he said, had been signed, but the name had been marked out.
Elliott said officers were suspicious concerning the reporting parties. "We had some inconsistencies, but since it was a threat, we dedicated personnel," he said.
Six patrol officers, as well as two detectives, provided security and investigated the threat, Elliott said.
School Resource Officer Andy Cleaveland was able to "narrow the scope of the investigation through video," Elliott said. "We had three juvenile males that became central to this, either as witnesses or suspects."
Elliott said two of the juveniles were questioned, while the third was transported to the Butler-Ripley Juvenile Center Wednesday, where he was advised of his rights and interviewed.
"It is believed that this writing was actually done in an attempt to bully another male juvenile," whose name had been signed to the message, Elliott said.
The 14-year-old "did ultimately confess to it," Elliott said. " ... He was trying to get this other 14-year-old in trouble."
The juvenile, Elliott said, was lodged at the Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of making a terrorist threat.
"We were requested to Mirandize a child, which we did," said Chief Juvenile Office Lesi Smith. That juvenile is "currently lodged pending a detention hearing," she said.
That hearing, Smith said, was set for 9 a.m. today.
"Even though these were both kids, for lack of a better term, we have to treat it seriously, take it seriously and forward what we think are the appropriate charges for the incident to the state prosecutor and juvenile authorities," Whiteley said.