2 area teens charged in Web threats

3/22/2006
BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
2-area-teens-charged-in-Web-threats

Christy Cole, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor, talks about the charges fi led against the two 16-year-olds.


Christy Cole, an assistant
Ottawa County prosecutor,
talks about the charges fi led
against the two 16-year-olds.
Christy Cole, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor, talks about the charges fi led against the two 16-year-olds.

PORT CLINTON Two 16-year-old students at Genoa Area High School have been charged with posting threats to kill a 15-year-old girl on a popular teen-oriented Web site, authorities said yesterday.

In one of numerous messages sent to one another and posted on MySpace.com, one of the 16-year-old girls threatened to slit the 15-year-old s throat. In another message posted Jan. 15, the other 16-year-old talked about whether they should smash the younger girl s head into the ground and make her hair red.

In other postings in a chat room, the girls talked about hiding the victim s body and discussed going to jail together if they got caught.

i love you for being so serious about wantin to kill her, one of the girls wrote on the site.

Both girls were charged earlier this month in Ottawa County Juvenile Court with two counts of delinquency in connection with aggravated menacing, all first-degree misdemeanors. Both are scheduled to be arraigned April 13. Possible penalties include being sentenced to a juvenile detention center and community service.

Authorities said the threatening messages were posted in January from the two girls home computers, and that they took the communications seriously.

I think it s an important message for young people to understand that making threats of violence over the Internet is not appropriate, said Christy Cole, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor. And especially the threats that were made in this case were very serious, and there will be consequences. That s why the cases were charged.

According to media reports, numerous children around Ohio and the nation have been disciplined or criminally charged recently in connection with threats posted on MySpace.com.

A middle school student in Costa Mesa, Calif., is facing possible expulsion over allegations that he posted threats against a classmate on MySpace.com, and 20 other students were suspended for viewing the posting.

According to a report last month in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, at least eight students in Ohio had been arrested since December on charges of threatening to kill classmates and teachers.

I think a lot of times youngsters misunderstand, thinking that when you re at your home and you re on the computer that there s a feeling of being anonymous, Ms. Cole said. In today s society, we re no longer anonymous on the Internet.

According to a memo sent to the Ottawa County Prosecutor s Office by sheriff s Deputy Amy Harrell, the 15-year-old girl told Deputy Harrell that she thought the threats resulted because one of the older girls had begun dating a friend of hers and was jealous.

The girl said in her statement that after she found out about the postings, one of the 16-year-olds told her they meant no harm.

So then [she] finds out and trys [sic] talking to me and saying all the threats were just a joke, the alleged victim wrote. We didn t mean none of it.

In an interview, the victim s mother said the threats created a lot of stress for her daughter.

I took them seriously because that was my daughter, the woman said. When I read it, I felt sick. I m thinking, This is my daughter and they re talking about her like this? What if they re serious?

Dennis Mock, superintendent of the Genoa Area Local Schools, said the district has taken no disciplinary action in the matter, and that all three students are continuing to attend classes.

This did not occur on school property and did not involve the use of school computers, Mr. Mock said.

In a statement to the sheriff s office, the victim s mother said she spoke by phone Jan. 17 with high school Principal James Henline about the Internet threats, and that he told her he couldn t do anything because the incidents didn t take place at school.

The woman said in her statement that she contacted a school board member and Sheriff Bob Bratton, and that Mr. Henline called her Jan. 23 and asked for a meeting with her.

During that session on Jan. 30, the woman wrote, the principal told her he was upset that she had approached the board member and questioned her daughter s grades and attendance record.

She wrote that Mr. Henline then called her daughter in, showed her a photo of the girl that was posted on MySpace.com, and told her to get this ... picture off the computer. When the girl asked to see other papers the principal was holding, Mr. Henline yelled shut up at her and told her to get out and get to class, the woman wrote.

Contacted at his home last night, Mr. Henline disagreed with the woman s account of their conversation.

That s what she s saying, he said. I had two meetings with that parent, and I don t think that information is correct. I don t know what this mother wants us to do because it purely is not a school issue.

Mr. Henline said he gave photos of the girl to her mother just so she knew what her daughter was doing on that particular Web site.

Contact Steve Murphy at: smurphy@theblade.com or 419-724-6078.