Originally created 04/28/00

Youths' release denied



AIKEN -- Two boys who authorities say told classmates they would bomb their high school and watch it burn, appeared Thursday for a second time in Aiken County Family Court, where a judge again ruled that they were too dangerous to go home.

The order means the students will remain in custody for another 30 days. A separate hearing will be set to decide if there is enough evidence to keep them detained.

The brief court appearance was only the second time Jaris Simon and Robert Turner have seen their parents since April 17, the day they were arrested. Communication is limited to a few phone calls each week.

This time around, no testimony was presented against the defendants. But the state argued that the boys should not be released from juvenile detention because a small textile town still is recovering from their alleged plot to wreak havoc at Midland Valley High School on April 20 -- the anniversary of a massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Family Court Judge G. Larry Inabinet granted the solicitor's request and sent the boys back in shackles to Columbia's juvenile equivalent of a prison.

Judge Inabinet made the decision during a 15-minute hearing to determine whether the students should be released to their parents.

Sheriff's officials said Thursday they have closed their investigation and don't plan to arrest anyone else.

"Our investigators believe that only these two students were involved in the threats," Lt. Michael Frank said.

Prosecutors said, however, the door is still open to charge accomplices if any are found.

Robert Turner, 15, and Jaris Simon 14, both freshmen, are charged with threatening to bomb the school

-- a felony that carries a prison sentence of at least five years. They also have been charged with disturbing school -- a misdemeanor that carries a prison sentence of 90 days and a fine of $1,000.

Public defenders said Thursday that the boys already had served enough time in juvenile detention -- 11 days. Assistant Public Defender David Mauldin reminded the judge that investigators haven't found explosives or bomb-making materials in the boys' possession.

"Basically what we have is two kids running around making threats with nothing to back it up," said David Mauldin, Mr. Simon's attorney. "I see no danger to the community."

But Assistant Solicitor Frank Young told the judge a different story.

Any mention of Columbine connected to another alleged school slaying "is going to get students and parents frightened, and they have a right to be," he said.

Nearly half the freshman class at Midland Valley stayed home April 20, the day the classmates had allegedly planned to blow up the school. At least 300 students were absent, 42 percent of them freshmen.

Several students also have undergone counseling at Aiken/Barnwell Mental Health Center because of fears stemming from the rumors.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.