SC teen gets 10 years in school attack plot

FLORENCE, S.C. - A South Carolina teen apologized Thursday for scaring people with his plan last year to blow up his high school, saying he was "very embarrassed" by what he had done.


A federal judge accepted a plea deal from 19-year-old Ryan Schallenberger and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. The teen had faced up to 30 years behind bars.

"Chesterfield High School is a great high school and I have lots of friends there," the teen told the judge. "I'm glad I went there."

The teen didn't explain why he'd filled a journal with hate-filled plans to attack the school by placing bombs in its parking lot and shooting those inside after chaining the doors shut.

"I'm very sorry for everything that happened," he said. "I'm very embarrassed by this."

Schallenberger smiled slightly at his mother and stepfather when he entered the courtroom, clad in an orange jumpsuit, flip-flops and shackles on his hands and feet.

Defense attorney Michael Meetze said the young man was a voracious reader who had used his time in jail to get a GED. He worked with doctors and mental health counselors to address his depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"We wouldn't be here now if Ryan had had mental health treatment," the attorney said. The violent plans contained in his diary was "mental illness speaking" and not the polite and shy young man he'd gotten to know.

U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell told Schallenberger he needed to go to prison because his actions were serious, but gave the teen credit for his clean record and attempts to improve himself.

The judge also noted Schallenberger could get time off his sentence for good behavior and if he maintains his work with his mental health advisers.

Prosecutor Rose Mary Parham said Schallenberger would serve his time at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., where he will receive treatment for his mental illness.

"We all want him to get the proper care," she said after the hearing. "It was a horrendous plot but we believe it to be a fair and reasonable outcome."

Parham said the teen could end up serving about seven years given credit for time served and if he maintains a good conduct record.

Schallenberger's mother Laurie Sittley, who had tears rolling down her cheeks as she exited the courtroom, declined to talk with reporters. "No, not right now," she said.

Defense attorney Bill Nettles told the judge that the teen "is not a lost cause. He is a person of immense talent" who will be able to turn his life around at some point with the proper help.

Authorities discovered the plot on April 19, 2008, when Schallenberger's stepfather called 911. It was the second time in three days his parents called for help.

His mother, Laurie Sittley, sounded frightened when she called 911 on April 17, 2008, after prosecutors said her son became violent and abusive with his mother. Not allowed to return home, Schallenberger stayed in an abandoned trailer nearby.

The stepfather, John Sittley, called 911 after the parents picked up a package at the post office addressed to their son and discovered 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the same substance used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people.

His parents then went into his bedroom and found drawings of Chesterfield High and an audiotape that was meant to be played after Ryan completed "Columbine II," prosecutors said.

A police search found a hate-filled diary, ammunition, emptied shotgun shells, matches, gun powder and more tape recordings. From June 2007 to April 2008, Schallenberger detailed his massacre plans in his journal, including test trials of bombs and evaluations of their explosions.

He also told Sheriff Sam Parker that he was "ready to die" and that when he got to heaven he would "kill Jesus Christ himself," prosecutors said.