With details laid out in an unusually public juvenile court trial, a still-grieving community found out how - but not why - two boys killed four of their classmates and a teacher last spring.
Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden were ordered into the custody of the state Division of Youth Services after their trial Tuesday, and with them go the answers Jonesboro wanted to hear."Some day I hope, without the presence of lawyers, we can sit down - the two of you and me - and you can tell me why you did this," said Mitchell Wright, the husband of slain teacher Shannon Wright.
"I would love to know," said Debbie Amir, whose daughter was wounded.
The boys - Mitchell turned 14 Tuesday, Andrew is 12 - were pronounced delinquent by Craighead County Juvenile Court Judge Ralph Wilson Jr. The judge's finding was the equivalent of a guilty verdict in adult court, but the resulting penalty isn't nearly as severe.
The state can hold the boys until they are 21, but there is no facility in Arkansas that holds juvenile criminals once they're older than 18. Wilson said the crime was so horrible that if the state releases the boys early, they must serve 90 days in the county lockup.
"Here the punishment will not fit the crime," Wilson said. "The heinous and atrocious nature and the apparent deliberation and planned premeditation" justified the jail time, he said.
The boys also can get their guns back when they are released. Felons are prohibited from possessing weapons in Arkansas, but the boys are considered only delinquent and will not lose their privileges.
In a crowded courtroom - thoughtfully stocked with 28 boxes of tissues to soak up tears - a state crime examiner was able to lay out which boy killed which victim, except for one for whom results were inconclusive.
Mitchell pleaded guilty to five counts of murder and 10 counts of battery; 10 people, including another teacher, were injured by bullets. Wilson rejected Andrew's attempt to plead temporary insanity and found him guilty of the same charges.
Andrew remained mum, occasionally wringing a handkerchief. Mitchell told the court he didn't believe anyone would be hurt.
"I thought we would just shoot over everyone's head," he said.
His voice breaking, Mitchell apologized to the families and to his family and friends. "If I could go back and change what happened on March 24, 1998, I would do so in a minute," he said.