GREEN BAY, Wis. – The mother of a teenager arrested in a foiled Columbine-style plot to bomb and shoot students at a high school said the boys were victims of bullying and harassment at school.
Elizabeth Sturtz, 48, the mother of 17-year-old Shawn Sturtz, said Saturday that bullies often called her 300-pound son, who had a learning disability, fat and stupid, so she understands how her son could have been angry.
Her comments came as authorities announced the arrest of a third teen.
Sturtz said despite the taunting she saw nothing in her son's past or recent behavior showing he would plot a Columbine-like attack on the school.
"They were pushed to the limit. They couldn't handle it anymore," she told The Associated Press in an interview in her home.
Police arrested Sturtz and William Cornell, also 17, on Thursday, and Bradley P. Netwal, 18, on Friday, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit homicide and arson. District Attorney John Zakowski said he planned to file charges against them Thursday.
Investigators said the teens planned to set off bombs near bathrooms, light exits on fire and shoot people who they didn't like at East High School.
Elizabeth Sturtz said Cornell, like her son, weighed 300 pounds and both were subject to bullying at least in part because of their weight. She blamed herself for not doing more to help her son.
"I don't know what to do to help him," she said.
Cornell's lawyer, Shane Brabazon, did not immediately return telephone messages left at his home and office Saturday evening.
Police found out about the plot from a student who alerted an associate principal. A detective said Friday that one boy wanted to carry out the plan Thursday but the other talked him out of it.
Investigators said Netwal was a former student at the school and a friend who participated in the planning. All three were being held in the Brown County Jail.
Court Commissioner Jane Sequin ordered Sturtz and Cornell jailed on $500,000 bond Friday. Netwal was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday.
East High School Principal Ed Dorff said the student who came forward to alert authorities to the plan asked school officials to maintain the student's anonymity.
Green Bay Police Capt. Karl Fleury said the case remains under investigation. "We are taking it where it leads us."
Police Detective Tom Molitor testified at a hearing Friday that the 17-year-olds told police they had been plotting the massacre for several years. Besides the bombs near bathrooms, they planned to light the exits on fire with jelled gasoline so no one could escape, he said.
However, Sturtz's mother said her son and Cornell did not become close friends until last year so they could not have plotted for years.
Police found nine rifles and shotguns, a handgun, about 20 "crudely made" explosive devices, camouflage clothing, gas masks, two-way radios and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at Cornell's house, Police Capt. Lisa Sterr said. She said Cornell had made several of the improvised explosive devices about two months ago.
At Sturtz's home, they found knives and ammunition, Sterr said.
The two teens had long been fascinated by the April 1999 Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colo., in which two students armed with guns, knives and bombs killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves, Sterr said.
Sturtz's mother said her son was kicked out of the school last year for bringing a knife because he felt he needed protection. He was assigned to an alternative school for the last part of the year. She said she called the principal and social workers to alert them to her son being bullied but no one ever called back.
"He didn't want to go to school because of the kids and he knew the teachers wouldn't do anything because we tried last year," the mother said.
Public schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said he did not know the specifics of the teen's situation but said the school district has made stopping bullying a priority.
The mother said her son liked to watch television and play video games and used to work busing tables at a local ballroom. He had trouble reading, she said.
No one answered the door Saturday at Cornell's home and no phone number could be found for Netwal.