AUGUST 8, 2005 - Posted at 7:58 a.m. CDT
JONESBORO, AR - The mother of a boy who helped gun down four schoolmates and a teacher in 1998 says when her son is freed from a federal prison Thursday he won't be returning to Arkansas. Gretchen Woodard still lives near the Westside Middle School, where her son, Mitchell Johnson, then 13, and another boy, Andrew Golden, then 11, staged a fire drill and opened fire on the children and teachers as they exited the building. Five people were killed and ten were injured.
Woodard told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that it wouldn't be wise for her son to move back to Arkansas. She says she can guarantee that he won't be. She hinted that Johnson will move at least a day's drive from Jonesboro and enroll in college. She says he is sorry for his part in the slayings and she hopes people will give him a chance to do good.
Johnson is being freed from a prison in Memphis because he was prosecuted as a juvenile, and the state of Arkansas at the time only had the facilities to keep him and Golden until they turned 18. Federal prosecutors stepped in after that and, under gun laws, kept the two detained until they turn 21. Johnson's birthday is Thursday. Golden is to be released in May 2007.