By ROBERT RAY and BRUCE SCHREINER
BENTON, Ky. (AP) — The 15-year-old accused in a school shooting that killed two students and left 18 others bleeding and broken appeared Thursday before a juvenile court judge who found probable cause to detain him on preliminary charges of murder and assault.
Assistant Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall said he can’t comment on what happens inside juvenile court, where the teenager’s identity and details of the crime remain cloaked in secrecy. But he reiterated that the state wants to try the teenager as an adult.
Meanwhile, authorities are gathering evidence for a grand jury, hoping to discover why he fired into a crowd of his classmates, all 14 to 18 years old, as they waited for the morning bell inside Marshall County High School on Tuesday.
The aftermath has been overwhelming in a community where practically everyone knows each other — Benton, the nearest town, has about 4,300 residents, and the entire county has just 31,000 people or so.
The county’s elementary and middle schools reopened Thursday in an effort to “get back to normalcy,” after Superintendent Trent Lovett invited parents to come along with their younger children, to help manage their grief.
But the high school — still a crime scene — remained closed and Lovett had no word Wednesday on when classes there might resume.
Two more patients were released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, spokeswoman Kristin Smart said Thursday. Two male patients are still being treated at the hospital — one who is in critical but stable condition and the other who is in stable condition, Smart said.
Until authorities know why the shooter opened fire, they can’t yet add charges of attempted murder to the two murder charges he faces, even though more than a dozen other students suffered bullet wounds, Darnall said Wednesday, stressing that first-degree assault carries the same penalty.
“Attempted murder is an offense which takes into account motive and specific intent,” Darnall said. Assault simply requires a “serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument. So as of right now, we believe that the better case is an assault first charge as opposed to attempted murder.”