A Dyer County judge has determined the female juvenile arrested for threatening phone messages to two city schools on Tuesday will spend the holidays at the McDowell Center for Children.
The 14-year-old girl appeared in handcuffs before Dyer County Juvenile Judge Jason Hudson on Wednesday afternoon as she was arraigned on two counts of false reporting. The previous day, she had been arrested by Dyersburg Police after it was determined she was the alleged caller of two threatening phone messages to Dyersburg Intermediate School and Dyersburg Primary School. Although school and city officials initially stated the threatening messages the girl allegedly relayed to school personnel were related to a bomb threat, witness testimony on the stand portrayed the threats to be about gun violence.
The grandmother of the suspect appeared by the girl's side in court. After he questioned the grandmother about her finances, Hudson appointed public defender Cristy Cooper to represent them. The girl had stated to Hudson she didn't want to stay at the McDowell Center for Children any longer. The grandmother also wished for her granddaughter to be released from custody and this led to a detention hearing for the girl.
Assistant District Attorney Renee Creasy was requesting the girl remain in custody at the McDowell Center. She then called Dyersburg City Schools employee Sharon Grooms first to the stand and questioned her about Tuesday morning's events. Grooms answered the phone at Dyersburg Intermediate School around 8:30 a.m. when the caller stated they had one hour to get out of the building or they were going to bring a gun and kill everybody. Grooms reported the call to the principal and they called police. Cooper cross examined Grooms and asked her if the voice she heard on the phone was a male or a female. Grooms stated she wasn't sure.
Creasy next called Cindy Franklin who is employed as a secretary at Dyersburg Primary School. She stated she also received a phone call around 8:22 a.m. She said she answered the phone and couldn't understand the person at first, but then the caller stated, "I'm going to bring a gun and shoot everyone there in an hour."
Franklin said she put the phone down and went and got assistant principal Amy Morgan. Franklin and Morgan returned to the phone and the caller stated they wanted money. Franklin asked the caller how much money they wanted and the caller was silent and hung up. She said they received four other calls. She added they contacted Dyersburg Police and the school went on lockdown.
Cooper asked Franklin if she could determine if the voice of the caller was male or female, to which Franklin said she could not tell.
Next, Creasy called Sherry Agee to the stand. Agee is employed at Dyersburg Primary School as a curriculum coordinator. She answered one of the calls around 8:25 a.m. and the caller stated they would come and shoot everyone in an hour and was watching the time. Agee answered a second call and the caller threatened her personally saying she had hung up on them and she was going to be the first one they came to. Agee told Cooper she couldn't tell if the caller was male or female because the voice was "gravelly."
Next, Dyersburg Police School Resource Officer Brett Davis took the stand. Davis stated he was familiar with the suspect who attends the alternative school. Davis said he saw the girl on Tuesday morning before classes started and she was walking in a prohibited area. Davis stated a teacher told her to stop three times and she continued to the student office. School officials spoke to the girl in the office and were going to send her home. Davis said she asked him how does a person "get schools investigated" and she stated she felt she was not being treated properly by the school system. Davis said the girl left around 7:45 a.m. in the same vehicle that had brought her to school.
Creasy next called Dyersburg Police Sgt. Tommy Langford to the stand. He stated he investigated the case and through his investigation they were able to pinpoint two numbers the calls originated from. He added one of the numbers was registered to the girl's grandmother and the other was registered to a person with the same first name of the suspect, but had a different last name. Langford said police went to the grandmother's residence in Dyersburg around 1:30 p.m. and spoke with her. Langford said she told police her granddaughter had the same first name as the person they were looking for, but had a different last name. Langford added she thought her granddaughter was in school and grew concerned when she found out she was not at school. Langford said they eventually made contact with the suspect and she reportedly had the same cell phone in her possession that had the number that called the schools. The phone reportedly still had the phone numbers of the schools where she had called them.
Cooper asked Langford if there were recordings of the calls made to the schools. Langford stated there were no recordings.
Cooper then called the grandmother to take the witness stand. She told Cooper she had custody of her granddaughter since she was 4 years old and she would welcome the chance to be able to take her back home. In a twist of irony, the grandmother stated she was at Dyersburg Primary School with her grandson when the threats came in and she had to be locked down with everyone there as well.
In closing, Creasy stated to Hudson that the girl should remain in custody due to the seriousness in nature of the charges and due to the fact the girl was not in school and did not return home until around 1 p.m.
Cooper stated to Hudson the state had not proved probable cause to keep the girl in custody at the McDowell Center and asked for house arrest until a trial could be set on the charges.
Hudson ruled in favor of the state saying Creasy had proven probable cause. He said the court found the likelihood of injury or death coupled with the grandmother not being able to provide adequate supervision left him with the decision for continued detention at the McDowell Center. Hudson set a trial date for the juvenile to take place on Jan. 8, 2013, until which time she will remain at the McDowell Center.