Richmond County tribunal expels accused students

Other teens may attend Davidson

Four students accused of setting fire to a Hephzibah High School JROTC building in June have been expelled for one year, according to Richmond County tribunal findings made public Thursday.

Meanwhile, two Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School students have been allowed to return to class despite an off-campus incident involving an explosive device.

The tribunal for the fire case, held Aug. 6, involved two Hephzibah High students and two Hephzibah Middle students who were charged by police with arson and interference with government property, both felonies.

The students' names weren't in a tribunal report, but their initials were: J.T, A.S., R.T. and D.M. Five people were arrested in the case -- three juveniles and James "Trey" Schlein, 19, of the 4800 block of Story Mill Road in Hephzibah, and Antonio Sinkler, 19, of the 2900 block of Old Lake Road in Hephzibah.

School safety Lt. Richard Roundtree said indictments have not yet been issued. Authorities are awaiting results from the crime lab and an arson report. As of Thursday afternoon, Schlein and Sinkler remained at the Richmond County jail.

The tribunal report states that four students went to Hephzibah High "on or about" June 17 with an adult.

"The students and adult broke into the concession area and the (J)ROTC building," the tribunal finding notes. "While inside the (J)ROTC building, they set a jacket on fire and left it burning inside the building. As the students left the area, they threw rocks in an attempt to disable the surveillance camera."

The building, which served as an indoor firing range, was destroyed and will cost $500,000 to replace. The tribunal finding states that the students were expelled for one school year after being found in violation of Rule 32 in the county's Code of Student Conduct and Discipline, which addresses "disrupting school operations and off-campus conduct."

"Upon final disposition of the criminal matter and after the expulsion period, a tribunal may be held to determine the students' placement," the finding states.

In a separate case involving two Davidson Fine Arts students on Aug. 11, authorities ruled they could return to Davidson.

The students, who weren't identified in the tribunal report but who police have named as Matthew Cornelison and Stuart Sims, were charged with manufacturing and transporting a destructive device/explosive and reckless conduct in an off-campus incident during the summer.

The two, both 17, suffered a severe reaction to chlorine after police say they set off a pipe bomb July 1 in an open McCormick County field. Investigators later seized nearly a dozen firearms, a 10-foot "potato gun" and other items from Sims' house. Sims' parents told investigators they had purchased the firearms for hunting. A homemade "sniper-style" ghillie suit and ammunition also were confiscated.

"However, no malicious intent or intent to harm anyone was shown," their tribunal report states. "The principal testified that the students' attendance at Davidson would not present a danger to anyone nor would it create a disruption. Both students are seniors, have very high grades and presented numerous teacher letters recommending their return to Davidson."

No indictments have been filed.

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