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Charges to be discussed in school bomb case

By Michael Davis

While students and faculty hope normalcy returns after a bomb was discovered Thursday at their small private school, officials plan to meet today to discuss the charges against the 14-year-old who had the explosive device at Lake Dow Christian Academy.

Investigators planned to meet today with the district attorney's office to discuss the charges against the boy, as well as any other possible charges that may be filed.

"Right now, it pretty much looks like we're through with all of the interviews and searches unless anything new comes to light," Henry County Public Safety Director Michael Turner said.

As of Sunday, no new charges had been filed. "We interviewed a bunch of witnesses [Thursday] night, but nobody else has been charged," Turner said.

The suspect will be tried as a juvenile and remains in juvenile custody awaiting arraignment later this month.

"A detention hearing was held [Friday] morning in juvenile court and he was ordered held by a juvenile court judge," Flint Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tommy Floyd said.

The suspect, whose name is being withheld by police, is charged with possession of an explosive or destructive device, Floyd said. He is the only one charged in the ongoing investigation, but Floyd said others may face charges.

Floyd stressed that it was an isolated incident. "This was not some group that was possessing or making bombs," he said, adding, "the charge indicates he was the sole possessor of the device."

Police won't say how much damage the device could have caused at the Lake Dow Christian Academy in McDonough, but some inside the school don't believe the boy meant to harm anyone.

One classmate who was in the room where the device was found in the school on Lake Dow Road, couldn't believe what had happened.

"The boy that brought the bomb to school is the sweetest boy in the whole world," said a ninth-grader at the school who identified herself only as Rachel, 14.

"He didn't intend for anything to come out of it," she said.

Lake Dow Christian Academy is a small but expanding school.

Established in 1977 and built in the back of McDonough Baptist Tabernacle, the two-story metal building which houses the school's gym also houses it's middle- and high-school classrooms, which are no different than any those at any other school.

The school teaches from the A Becka Book, a popular Christian curriculum founded in Pensacola, Fla.

The second-floor rooms are built around a balcony overlooking the gym floor.

The school's financial secretary, Terri Petty, said the school's total enrollment is 166 students and 22 faculty and staff.

Elementary and students as young as 3 are in another building adjacent to the main sanctuary, a typical all-brick church building. The elementary wing opened at the beginning of the last school year, she said.

Petty said school officials thought well of the boy who now faces such serious felony charges.

"He did not mean any harm to the school," Petty said. "That's what we've been told and we believe that because of his personality," she said.

Petty said the incident has helped to drive home a strong warning to her own children, boys 12 and 14, who also attend the school as seventh and ninth-graders.

"I'm just trying to tell them this is why they have to be careful with what they get involved in."

Police were alerted at 8:43 a.m. Thursday to a possible explosive device at the school after a teacher noticed something unusual in a backpack. Turner said the teacher, who had overheard conversation among some students that led him to search the bag, took the backpack outside the school to a nearby wooded area. It was later discovered the bag contained components of an explosive device, but not a finished device.

Agents from more than a half dozen agencies swept the school and discovered a live explosive device in one of the classroom areas. Turner said Thursday the device had a triggering mechanism but was not armed. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation bomb squad destroyed the live device found in the school.

Three searches of the school building and the grounds were made, using bomb technicians and bomb-sniffing dogs, but nothing more was found.

The juvenile, who lives on Higgins Road in Locust Grove, will face arraignment Dec. 20 in front of a Henry County Juvenile Court judge.

Floyd said the charge, a felony, carries a maximum sentence of up to five years confinement in a juvenile facility. Floyd said because of the child's age, juvenile court has "exclusive jurisdiction." If he had been 15, he would be tried as an adult.

Henry County police later searched the Higgins Road home and found two more explosive devices described by Turner to be in their final stages of completion. He would not describe the ingredients or the make-up of the devices.

Photographer Rob Felt contributed to this article.