Tuesday, November 27, 2001

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) A high school where three teen-agers purportedly plotted to use explosives and guns to kill fellow students reopened yesterday after it was declared safe following a sweep by nearly 40 officers and five bomb-sniffing dogs.
Eric McKeehan, 17, and two 15-year-old freshmen, who purportedly modeled themselves after the two students who carried out the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., were arraigned yesterday on charges that included conspiracy to commit murder.
The students were arrested at their homes Saturday after a New Bedford High School janitor found a letter outlining their plans to detonate explosives in the school and then shoot fleeing students. Police said the students then planned to kill themselves when police arrived.
A search of the students’ homes yielded bomb-making instructions, knives, shotgun shells and pictures of the suspects holding what appeared to be handguns. The guns were not recovered.
Two more students were being questioned and faced arrest, authorities said.
On Sunday, police searched the sprawling 3,300-student building and found no new evidence of the plot, police Lt. Richard Spirlet said. Police searched 4,000 lockers at the school.
“We didn’t think we were going to find anything,” Lt. Spirlet said. “But we want to put the public at ease.”
School was open yesterday morning.
The mothers of two of the teens who were charged defended their sons, saying the accusations against the boys had been exaggerated.
“My kids are good kids and this has really been blown out of proportion and you know, there’s just no way anything like that would have happened,” Carol McKeehan, the mother of Eric McKeehan, told the Boston Herald.
Susan St. Hilaire, the mother of one of the two juveniles charged, said the charges were based on rumors and hearsay.
“I lived with these kids,” she told the Boston Globe, characterizing the boys as “gentle” and “misunderstood.”
“I know they’re not ready to die,” Mrs. St. Hilaire said.
The three students were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and possession of ammunition.
Mr. McKeehan was being held on $10,000 cash bail. The two juvenile suspects were being held on $5,000 cash bail.

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