Pine View High School bomb suspect was ‘relentlessly’ bullied, parents say

Defense attorneys Matthew and Stephen Harris sit during a preliminary hearing for a teen accused of attempting to detonate a bomb inside Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018 | File photo by Chris Caldwell via Utah court pool, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The teen who allegedly brought a homemade bomb to Pine View High School earlier this year was bullied so harshly it caused him to withdraw from all classes at Hurricane High School, according to testimony by the teen’s parents in court Thursday.

The regional bomb squad, operated out of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, loads two robots into its trailer after being used during an investigation into a bomb scare at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The 16-year-old from Hurricane was “relentlessly” bullied and teased, starting when he was playing baseball and football in elementary and middle school, the teen’s father said in court. He was also physically and verbally bullied while attending school, where one classmate even told him “it was too bad he hadn’t died over the weekend,” the teen’s father said.

Thursday’s testimony by the teen’s parents and a mental health counselor were part of a series of hearings at the 5th District Courthouse in St. George to determine whether or not the teen will be tried as an adult. The teen’s defense attorney Stephen Harris ran most of the questioning at the hearing.

The teen, who was charged with felonies for attempted murder and possessing a weapon of mass destruction, allegedly brought a homemade explosive device to Pine View High School on March 5. The bomb never detonated and no one was injured, but it caused a full evacuation of the school.

The teen also faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly spray painting “ISIS is comi” and raising an Islamic State flag at Hurricane High School on Feb. 15.

Because the suspect is a juvenile, St. George News has chosen not to name the teen or his parents to protect his identity.

Read more: Charges filed in Pine View bomb scare; more possible in relation to ISIS flag incident

When the bullying became too much

The teen was always bullied and teased throughout his time attending school and playing sports, his parents said in the hearing Thursday. Many times, the teen would react to his classmates bullying him by fighting back, which would get him in trouble. For example, one time he was suspended for using scissors to cut the shorts of a classmate who supposedly punched him, the teen’s mother said.

Deputy Washington County Attorney Angela Adams during a preliminary hearing for a teen accused of attempting to detonate a bomb inside Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018 | File photo by Chris Caldwell via Utah court pool, St. George News

The bullying became much more intense when the teen started attending Hurricane High School. It became too much for the teen to handle after an incident in a woodworking class at Hurricane High School in November 2017, three months before he allegedly returned to the school to vandalize it with ISIS imagery.

The incident in shop class started when the teen was attempting to give advice to another classmate about a woodworking project, when other students in the class started teasing the classmate for listening to the teen. It quickly escalated to pushing, and nearly everyone in the class started laughing at the teen, including one of his own cousins who was in the class, his mother said.

“That hurt,” she said.

Afterward, the teen “finally broke down and cried and said, ‘You just don’t understand, Mom, how bad it is,'” she testified.

The teen decided he was finally done with Hurricane High School after the incident in woodworking class and withdrew from the school.

“When we decided to pull him out, we went and talked with the woodworking teacher because (the teen) needed to go and get his things from the class. The teacher was concerned, but he told (the teen) if he felt like everyone was bullying him, maybe he should look at himself and see why.”

The teen’s mother said although her son is socially awkward, she never felt like the bullying against him was his fault, like the woodworking teacher had implied.

The teen also attended classes at Success Academy at Dixie State University, as well as seminary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and ROTC at Pine View High School. The bullying wasn’t as bad at Pine View High School or the Success Academy, so he continued attending classes there after November.

A few months later is when the teen allegedly placed the bomb in the cafeteria of Pine View High School because he wanted to “cause fear in the kids and their parents,” said the teen in a hearing last month.

Read more: ‘If someone got hurt, I probably wouldn’t care’; Teen charged with attempted murder in Pine View High bomb scare

Frustrations from life, autism

While the teen worked hard in school, he also struggled to keep up with his peers in academics and didn’t have any close friends outside of his family. However, his did have his strengths, including woodworking and as a Boy Scout – he received his Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouts of America, at the age of 13, his mother said.

5th District Juvenile Court Judge Paul E. Dame during a preliminary hearing for a teen accused of attempting to detonate a bomb inside Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018 | File photo by Chris Caldwell via Utah court pool, St. George News

“He gets frustrated with things but doesn’t get aggressive,” she testified.

One of the biggest thing the teen would get frustrated about was when his peers wouldn’t follow set rules. The teen loves rules, sticks to the rules and likes it when others around him follow the rules, his mother said.

Following rules and not knowing why others may not follow the rules is one of the indications of autism, which the teen has been diagnosed with, mental health counselor Shara Mitchell Ogilvie testified.

“It’s incredibly stressful for (people with autism) when they see people not following the rules and sometimes they don’t know what to do with that,” she said. “This can cause intense anxiety.”

Read more: Defense’s witness says autism, bullying played part in bomb scare case

When asked by Judge Paul E. Dame if she believes the teen’s low-level autism diagnosis could be directly related to allegedly bringing a bomb to Pine View High School, Ogilvie said she had no doubt in her mind that there was a direct correlation.

Even though the actions that the teen allegedly carried out were extreme, the teen can “absolutely” still be teachable and can learn to correct inappropriate behaviors and mindsets, she said. Part of the reason the teen can improve through counseling is because he has not been diagnosed as a psychopath.

The hearing to determine whether or not the teen will be tried as an adult will resume Friday.

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • IPFreely July 5, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Parents say… what a crock of crap. If they knew about it than they should have stepped up and been parents. Maybe they should go to jail for allowing it to happen and allowing their child to make a bomb.

  • IPFreely July 5, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    First the autism defense and now bullying. If this kid gets off it will be a great injustice.

  • John July 5, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Whatever happened to accountability? Why is it always somebody else’s fault? He did it… No excuse..Court, trial and sentencing..

  • comments July 5, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    I’d ask which mormon angel do we owe thanks to that those bombs didn’t go off, but really, this poor young doofus was too much of an idiot to even build a working bomb. Parents should’ve pulled him out of public school a long time ago. Some children simply don’t thrive in a public school environment. As far as what to do with these young autists that will never really function in society… I really don’t have a clue what they should do. I have a feeling we’re in for a lot more of these types of bullied autists blasting up schools with guns tho. So what’s the solution?

    • mesaman July 5, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      Comments, you seem to be erratic with your deep seated hatred for the Mormon church and anything else that triggers your total absence of decorum. You said it best; “….I really don’t have a clue…..

      • John July 5, 2018 at 9:00 pm

        Comments will tell you himself, he even failed at being a Mormon. The dude is just full of hate and himself…Can’t use the word I would like but you get the idea.

        • jaybird July 5, 2018 at 9:50 pm

          Doubtful this kid will serve time as adult since no one was hurt. Its kind of disingenuous that the brain dead innerbreds at Hurricane High would have anything to bully anyone over.

          • asianspa July 6, 2018 at 8:05 am

            Oh jaybird.. Hurricane is a gossip filled, wannabe town of hypocrisy fueled hatred. I want to know how many of these bullies parents are bishops, and counselors in their church? All the bullies will be up in church on Sunday in a couple years going on missions and talking piously about what it means to be “christ-like”… .Please tell me more when you are done stuffing some autistic kid in a locker.

          • comments July 6, 2018 at 2:40 pm

            That’s the thing isn’t it. I grew up in a mormon dominated city here in UT and the worst bullies in the schools were always the “nice wholesome LDS boys”. Figure it out..

      • comments July 5, 2018 at 10:15 pm

        you know M&M, it isn’t so much hatred as it is just disappointment. As a lifetime member of the LDS church I can safely say that our church doesn’t really persuade anyone to behave any better than they would without it. At the end of the day it is just a social club that includes a higher proportion of hypocrites than you’d find in other areas of society. I realize that as people age and begin to feel mortal they need something to grasp onto and cling to for comfort, and that’s pretty well the only practical purpose I see for LDS and any other religion, and I respect the notion that people need something like religion to cling to. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make any of it true, nor does it make so many members any less of the hypocrites they are as they cling to their fairytales out of their fear of death and fear of the unknown. Plus, how is it erratic? I’d say I’ve been pretty consistent. Anyway, all in good fun 😉 You need to respect that since I AM a fellow LDS. cheers 😉

        • No Filter July 6, 2018 at 12:34 am

          There are about 4200 religions in the world and only one can be true, if any. So I would say it’s safe to bet that the LDS religion is not even in the top 100. I would say there’s a better chance of Zeus controlling us than the idea that Jesus came to the America’s to teach the Indians about his teachings, especially since there is no physical or written proof other than the word of a con-mam. The LDS church was created to give mr smith power over his followers and to let him have sex with little girls.

          • John July 6, 2018 at 8:49 pm

            How do you know only one religion can be true? You CLUELESS PUTZ! hahahahahahaha!

        • asianspa July 6, 2018 at 8:12 am

          If it wasn’t for business purposes or the fact the women they married that they half can’t stand other than for the occasional you know what… most men would be gone out of the church in a heartbeat. I have been to many churches and as far as understanding of the bible I would say the mormon church is VERY weak. You got a lot of people that just recite cliche after cliche and have a hard time thinking beyond it. All these poor mormons are still struggling to understand how to apply ministering in replacing home and visiting teaching, they just can’t use their logic and reasoning capabilities.

          • comments July 6, 2018 at 2:44 pm

            i haven’t yet bothered to look into what this LDS “ministering” program is all about. I’ll just assume it’s more BS for now.

    • Striker4 July 6, 2018 at 2:36 am

      and another stupid ignorant comment by the Prophet Bob himself. only an idiotic basement dwelling keyboard warrior like himself could blame the LDS church for this ….you seen it for yourself folks. he admits he doesn’t have a clue and all he does is run his mouth

      • comments July 6, 2018 at 2:42 pm

        Bless your heart, Dump <3 Such a sweetheart <3 😉

    • Sheri July 6, 2018 at 4:03 am

      well it seems that you don’t function well in society. Here you are throwing down with your bada*s self.. and it’s autistic.. not autist .. sooo..

  • FowRizzle July 5, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    I think if we still had public executions there would be less crime…. just saying…

  • Real Life July 5, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    This kid needs to be locked away for s long time. PERIOD.

  • jaltair July 6, 2018 at 1:43 am

    If he were tried as an adult, whatever the outcome, there would be a red flag. I’m just saying perhaps we need red flags to make sure that people who commit crimes, even if there is some type of mental disorder and they are 16 or 17, are flagged so steps may be taken in the future if needed.

    I wish our criminal institutions were more sophisticated to deal with people who have mental disorders. He possibly could receive counseling, therapy, and various types of help through a mental health type Institution. If the defense were to go for a “not guilty by mental illness” type of claim, that possibly could be worked out. I would hate to see this young man go to a hardcore prison.

    Another thought that I have, I’m a nurse and I have seen many children who were born way too early, or have had mothers who have been on drugs, Etc, have mental disorders as they grow. I am staying that perhaps all the heroic efforts we under take in the medical profession to keep very frail babies alive may be causing them harm in the future and may be affecting our society. It would be an interesting study.

    Please don’t think I’m inhumane saying these things. My heart is as big as anyone’s out there. I love children and have three of my own who are grown.

  • Sheri July 6, 2018 at 3:56 am

    Having a child on the spectrum that attended Washington County Schools I am inclined to believe the parents and child. The crap my son dealt with was insane and he was the one who got into trouble and had to move schools when he fought back.
    I’m pretty sure the bs this kid had to endure could have caused him to make a bomb and not care if anyone got hurt.

    • panda July 6, 2018 at 10:22 am

      Washington County Schools have a huge bullying problem and most of the time they do nothing to the bullies, but instead just try to get the victim to put up with it and shut up. My son who is high functioning autistic started coming home from Horizon Elementary with black eyes and broken teeth in 1st grade and every time I was told it was my son’s word against the bully’s word and without proof there was nothing that could be done. I chose to move him from Pineview to Dixie a couple of years ago and although Dixie has been better there have still been bullying issues from time to time. Dixie Middle actually does something about the bullying. In comparison, the Principal at Pineview Middle is a bully and promotes a culture where bullying thrives. I’ve heard Pineview High is even worse. There is no way a high functioning bullied autistic teen should be tried as an adult. It takes a village to raise a child and the village (school system) fails constantly here in Washington County. Give the parents more tools and provide health care coverage for autistic youth and there will be better outcomes (anything billed to insurance with a diagnosis of autism isn’t covered).
      As for the comment that said the parents should have pulled him out of public school, exactly what should they have done with him. Autistic youth need structure and the ability to learn by interacting with others. Otherwise they will withdraw and never be able to work as adults. It would be great if there were decent private schools and vouchers to help pay for private school, but feasibly what are their options in St. George. ZILCH!!!!

    • comments July 6, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      When the teachers and staff don’t give a crap and let a culture of bullying and ‘pecking orders’ take over the school it really is not a good thing. But around here they get to show up to church on Sunday and delude themselves into thinking they are wonderful people no matter what they do.

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