A week after a text message with a threat caused lockdowns at multiple Butler County schools, a Middletown teen girl admitted guilt Wednesday in Butler County Juvenile Court.
The 14-year-old Middletown middle school student had been incarcerated in the county juvenile detention center since the night of March 4, when she was charged with inducing panic, a second-degree felony.
On Wednesday in juvenile Judge Ronald Craft’s courtroom, the charge was amended to a fifth-degree felony, and the girl entered “true” plea. She could be sent to the Ohio Department of Youth Services for the offense, or the judge could order other punishment, including time in the county juvenile rehabilitation center. Sentencing will be held later this month, and she was released on house arrest until her sentencing.
According to the criminal complaint, the student sent the message while on the bus on the way to school. The message said she had a gun in her backpack and “she was wanting to know what to do,” asking another person, according to the complaint. She asked if the other person “was ready,” according to the complaint. It is not clear with whom she believed she was communicating.
The student also indicated in the message she “wasn’t sure if she wanted to shoot up the school.”
The text message led to the lockdowns of all Middletown schools, Lakota East High School and the Lakota East Freshman campus. Those lockdowns lasted more than three hours.
The message was received by the wellness center on the Middletown High School campus, which sends messages confirming appointments. The text message received was a response to that appointment reminder, officials said.
The student was identified, found with the phone that sent the text message and confessed, police and school officials said.
Officials said a phone with a number related to the phone that sent the message was “pinged” at Lakota East High School, which caused the lockdowns there.
After an assessment of the teen by forensic psychologist Bobbie Hopes that indicated she was “at low risk to harm herself or others,” Craft placed her on home incarceration, releasing her on Wednesday from juvenile detention.
“This case is not just about her, it is also about whether the school district and community is going to be safe if I release her, I take that very seriously,” Craft said.
The girl shook her head and answered,” yes, sir,” when he told her, “I am taking a chance with you.”
Craft ordered the teen to stay away from all Middletown and Lakota schools property unless invited by school officials, such as for school disciplinary hearings.
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