IOW teens accused of conspiring to make explosives

SMITHFIELD, Va. (WAVY) – Two Smithfield High School students have been charged after deputies say they discovered materials to make explosives in their homes.

According to a release from the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation began after a student overheard a 15-year-old student ask another where he could get a gun on May 1. He reported it to his parents, who had him tell authorities at school.

Deputies searched the home of the 15-year-old student with consent from parents and found about 100 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, a water bottle filled with gasoline, a container of what looked to be gunpowder and fuses.

“The parents did not know that we would find what we did,” said Captain Rick Gaddis, Chief Investigator for the sheriff’s office.

Looking through the teen’s cell phone, deputies found information about another student’s involvement. Deputies also searched that student’s home and found copper piping, gunpowder and other items consistent with a homemade weapon. That 14-year-old’s family also consented to the search, according to Gaddis.

According to deputies, the two teens talked through text messages about using certain household items to make fire bombs. Other evidence collected linked the pair to a break-in at a home in the 8600 block of Old Stage Highway. At the home, there are boarded up windows, a no trespassing sign, and wire preventing cars from entering the driveway or front lawn.

“It is apparent, and it is theorized the home is where they got the items to make these make shift devices,” Gaddis said. “We believe this is where they found the ammunition.”

Both teens were arrested Wednesday.

The 15-year-old suspect is charged with the following:

  • Enter property with the intent to destroy
  • Destruction of property
  • Conspiracy
  • Grand larceny
  • Three counts manufacture, possession, use of fire bombs or explosive materials or devices
  • Trespass

The 14-year-old suspect is charged with the following:

  • Enter property with the intent to destroy
  • Destruction of property
  • Conspiracy
  • Grand larceny
  • Manufacture, possession, use of fire bombs or explosive materials or devices
  • Trespass
  • Possession of burglary tools

No threat was found directed at Smithfield High School or any students, deputies said. All criminal activities occurred outside of school. Still, Gaddis said it was extremely important that the student came forward about hearing the two suspects talk about guns.

“[That person] did exactly what they were suppose to do, and what we want them to do, and who knows what may have been averted,” Gaddis said. “This could have been something terrible … thanks to this person coming forward. We were able to take care of this potential problem in its infancy.”

Local parents agree the situation demonstrates a valuable lesson.

“It’s a nice little area you wouldn’t think something like that would happen here,” said Roxanne Beckman. “There’s been shootings in a lot of schools lately, and I don’t know what is going on or why these kids are doing this.”

“I’ve talked to my son and his friends to keep your eyes and ears open and listen to what the other students are talking about, and if you hear something that sounds out of the ordinary you need to be talking to somebody,” Neal Johnson said.

Smithfield Principal Dr. Joyce McDowell sent the following phone message to parents Thursday:

Good Morning Parents-

This is Dr. Joyce McDowell, Principal of Smithfield High School calling to inform you that in a recent school investigation our administrators became aware of information regarding the after-school activities of two students that we felt needed to be shared with the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office. Upon notifying them, we were advised that there was no direct or immediate threat to Smithfield High School or our students and staff, however as a precautionary measure the law enforcement officials conducted a thorough search of the entire school building that evening. Please rest assured that had there been any determination of an immediate threat to our school, appropriate actions would have been taken.

We would like to thank the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office for their rapid response and thorough investigation of this matter. We appreciate their collaborative efforts in working closely with Smithfield High School administration to ensure the safety and security of our students and staff. Due to this being an active investigation, all questions and concerns should be directed to the Sheriff’s Office.

Thank you.

The Isle of Wight County Superintendent Dr. A. Katrise Perera sent the following statement:

In light of recent events that have taken place both nationally and locally, I would like to take a moment to emphasize the importance of school safety. The safety and security of our students and staff is always a top priority for this school division.

If an incident that may potentially pose a threat or danger to the safety of any of our schools is ever witnessed, all students and staff are encouraged to call our School Information Tipline (S.I.T. Line) at 757.357.0908 to anonymously report the matter. Reporting suspicious and potentially dangerous activity via the S.I.T. Line or to school administration is essential to the well being of our schools and this community.

I would like to personally thank the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office for their continuous rapid response and collaborative partnership with my administrators as we all work together to keep our students and staff safe.

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