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Freshman made plans before coming to school with live bomb

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — A Jackson County Comprehensive High School freshman made such detailed plans before coming to school with a live bomb in April that he researched countries that would grant him asylum.

Recently unsealed court documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald show 15-year-old Andrew Thomas Criswell, whose identity has been revealed since he will be tried as an adult, tested the detonator the night before to make sure the bomb would explode on April 11.

Even so, health experts, school officials and law officers told a Juvenile Court judge that Criswell didn’t intend to hurt anyone.

The bomb was a Mason jar packed with black powder, connected to a detonation trigger, that packed enough power to kill or severely injure everyone in the school’s main administrative office.

The documents describe Criswell as an emotionally disturbed teen trying to escape an unhappy home life. The Juvenile Court judge transferred the case to Superior Court, which he said is equipped to ensure Criswell receives the help he needs.

‘‘The experts all seem to agree that the incident stemmed from the total collapse of the child’s ability to cope with his own unendurable life situation,’’ Piedmont Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Guidry wrote in an order following a June 4 closed-door hearing.

One mental health expert testified that Criswell was not a threat to himself or others when she evaluated him, and the teen’s junior ROTC instructor said Criswell ‘‘was welcome back in his classroom,’’ the judge said in his order.

‘‘All experts agreed that the child was attempting to escape and had no intent to injure anyone; he simply had not thought out the consequences of his actions or any alternatives to what might happen should his plan to escape go awry,’’ the judge wrote.

Before he unsealed the order late Friday, Jackson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Booth blocked out details of Criswell’s problems outside of school.

Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evans testified in Juvenile Court that while he negotiated with Criswell, the teen first requested an airplane to Panama, then a boat to that Central American country.

‘‘The sheriff told the child that was not going to happen, and that the two of them would be leaving together, alive or dead,’’ the order states. ‘‘The child then demanded help for seriously sick relatives. The sheriff promised to try to do what he could to help the sick relatives. At that point, the child disarmed the bomb and handed it to the sheriff who delivered it to waiting bomb technicians from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.’’

Prosecutors stressed the seriousness of Criswell’s actions as they argued that the teen should be prosecuted as an adult.

Nearly 1,700 students at the high school, as well as faculty and staff, were evacuated during the bomb threat. A GBI bomb technician testified that Criswell’s homemade explosive device had a ‘‘dead man’s switch,’’ which would trigger an explosion if Criswell was shot or overpowered.

Guidry concluded in his order that it seems likely that Criswell could make a case he was temporarily insane when he brought the bomb to school, and that Superior Court has the means to ensure the teen would get the help he needs.

Criswell continues to be held at the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center.

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