Judge: Probable cause found to charge students as adults for conspiracy to commit capital murder
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Circuit Judge Cindy Thyer found probable cause Friday afternoon to charge the two Westside students who exchanged a loaded gun at school, with conspiracy to commit capital murder and possession of a firearm on school property.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Dakota Hays gave Patrick Houston a loaded .22 revolver in the boy’s bathroom at Westside High School Thursday.
The affidavit says Houston had asked for a gun so he could kill a 16-year-old co-worker of his.
Hays told deputies he knew Houston was wanting the gun to kill someone and discussed even how to get rid of the body.
Houston told Hays how he planned to get rid of the body, and then Hays told deputies he came up with a better plan to get rid of the body.
Both Houston and Hays’ stories were the same to investigators. Neither affidavit detailed why Houston wanted to kill his co-worker.
Judge Thyer also found cause to charge both students as adults.
Judge Thyer set their bond at $250,000 each, and ordered them on house arrest and to have no contact with each other or the co-worker, if they should make bond.
Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington originally asked the judge for a $1 million cash-only bond, saying he would request a high bond for any school district but Westside still feels the effects of the deadly school shooting in 1998.
“Every year, they have remembrances and the families of the children and the teacher that was lost, they feel it every day,” said Ellington. “There are many people who survived and when they hear about something similar to this, it causes post-traumatic stress episodes within those individuals.”
Westside High School was locked down Thursday morning due to the two students exchanging a gun in a restroom. A third student reported the trade-off to Ryan Tolbert, head of the school’s security, according to a social media post.
After learning of the exchange, the school resource officers immediately went to each students’ classroom, took them into custody, and secured the weapon.
Superintendent Scott Gauntt said the school “immediately went into lock-down in response to this threat.”
Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd told Region 8 News Thursday afternoon, that the information obtained through the course of the investigation led to the sheriff’s department to seek charges against the pair for conspiracy to commit capital murder and possession of a firearm on school property.
School administrators stressed no one was injured, and all students and faculty were safe.
“We preach everything around here, that if you see something, you’ve got to let someone know," he says. "They did that and it could’ve saved … it could’ve kept us from a messy situation.”
Gauntt says the security team on the campus worked efficiently.
“All three of them were here immediately," he says. "They handled this thing perfectly. I couldn’t be prouder of our security team.”
Once the team confronted the student with the gun, Gauntt says the student was stunned.
“Surprised. It was surprise," he says. "He had no problems with anyone here on campus, this issue was not with a student or staff member here. It was going to take place after school, so it was a complete surprise when we burst through the door.”
Following the incident, the school resumed its normal schedule.
Gauntt stated, “Please know that the safety of our students and staff are paramount to all we do here at Westside.”
Both Hays and Houston are due back in court on Feb. 28.
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