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Mall bomb-scare suspect out on bond

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A Morrow man who allegedly caused a bomb scare at the Santa Claus display at Southlake Mall last week -- while dressed as an elf -- has been released on bond from the Clayton County Jail.

William C. Caldwell, III, 45, was granted a consent bond on Tuesday, according to Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Boulware.

Caldwell bonded out of the jail Wednesday evening, according to a Clayton County Magistrate Court administrator.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said the bond was granted with conditions.

"I did consent to a $15,000 bond with conditions that he go to Clayton Mental Health within a week, and take all prescribed medication, that he report to work immediately, that he not be physically or verbally violent, that [he] not possess any weapons, and that he not go in the mall," Lawson said.

A preliminary hearing, which had been scheduled for 3 p.m., on Thursday, was waived in exchange for the bond, according to the district attorney's office.

According to Morrow Police, on the day of the incident, Dec. 2, Caldwell walked up to the Santa Shop and told the Santa that he (Caldwell) had dynamite in a bag. Police said the Southlake Mall security office was notified that a man, dressed as an elf, was acting suspiciously at the Santa Claus display in the lower level of the mall.

As a precaution, the mall was evacuated "without incident," police said. Morrow Police units and mall security detained Caldwell, and he was arrested.

"I think there was probably a miscommunication," said Caldwell's attorney, David Brown. He said his client is a special-needs adult who is harmless.

"He's different, and has had some problems, but in no way is he a danger, or violent," Brown said.

Authorities have banned Caldwell from Southlake Mall for 50 years, according to Morrow Police.

Police said the incident turned out to be a hoax, and Caldwell was charged with making terroristic threats, false imprisonment, false public alarm, disorderly conduct, reckless conduct, simple assault, and hoax devices, according to court records.

On Dec. 3, Caldwell appeared for a first-appearance hearing, and several people who identified themselves as Caldwell's co-workers came to the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro in a show of support for him.

Lawson said Caldwell is employed by Worktec, which had placed him in a job at Fort Gillem.

Brown said Worktec finds employment for adults with disabilities. "I think he's been a janitor for the last 7 1/2 years," Brown said.

Caldwell's case has been bound over to Superior Court, according to Lawson.

"We're reviewing it for whether or not it should be presented to the grand jury, or whether an alternative disposition should be examined," Lawson said.