MURRAY — The alleged plot had a Columbine-like tone to it.
Two teens, ages 14 and 15, were planning to kidnap students from their school, torture and then kill them, according to court documents. On top of that, investigators say the teenagers' plan was to videotape the attacks so they could become famous.
Now the teens are charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court, and several communities are shaken, thinking about what might have happened if the mother of one of the boys had not turned her son over to authorities.
At least two of the three intended alleged victims went to the same school as one of the boys, Midvale Middle School, at 7853 S. Pioneer St. (265 West).
The juveniles were making a hit list that included a student and the school resource officer and wanted to "harm people who had done harm to others," according to the court documents. The boys allegedly wanted to duplicate what they had viewed in the torture movie "Saw."
"It's very upsetting to the staff and students," said Midvale Middle School Principal Paula Logan.
Crisis counselors were at the school Wednesday for those who needed extra help. A message about the arrests was made on the morning announcements, and Logan planned to e-mail several parents personally to inform them of the situation.
"We are very grateful to the mother, who was aware of the concern and expressed that to the police," Logan said. "I think that would be a very difficult decision for a mother to do that to their own child. We're grateful to police for taking (the threat) very seriously from the beginning."
The boys were charged in juvenile court with three counts each of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping, all second-degree felonies. One of the boys was a student at the Midvale school. The other was a student at West High School.
Although the charges were filed a week ago, many students and parents found out about the plot just this week because of media attention.
On March 7, the mother of the 15-year-old boy eavesdropped on a phone conversation between her son and the other teen for about an hour, according to the court documents.
She listened as they talked about luring their victims and then videotaping their torture, "because they wanted people to know who did it, so they could become famous," the documents state. They talked about "killing several people" at different locations.
When police talked to the boys, they learned that the teenagers had planned to meet the next day to make a "more detailed list of people they wanted to kidnap, torture and kill," according to the court documents.
One of the boys also said during the interview with investigators, "We weren't joking," the documents state.
The Deseret News attempted to talk to the boys or their families Wednesday, but knocks on their doors and notes left in the mailboxes went unanswered.
A neighbor of the 15-year-old whose mother turned him in said the boy had always raised red flags with her. Elisa Johnson called the boy "creepy."
She said he would spy on her and her family in their backyard and talk about things that were sexually explicit or violent in nature with her children.
"He's always been an outsider, a doesn't-get-along-well-with-others type of person," Johnson said.
Salt Lake School District spokesman Jason Olsen said West High School and the district were going to wait until police had completed their investigation before deciding what action they would take with the boy.
Neighbors of the 14-year-old, meanwhile, had nothing but praise and sympathy for the young man.
"I just feel horrible that anything like this has happened, because I like (the boy)," said Virginia Roylance.
She described the boy, his father, mother, and his younger sister as very kind, polite and very family-oriented people who immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq with nothing.
"They'd give me their last dime," Roylance said.
But Tuesday, Roylance said she knew something was wrong. She could see the father pacing in the backyard and talking on his phone like something was wrong. The boy, who was also at his house, was also swinging his arms around while talking on the phone and had a face that appeared like something obviously wasn't right.
In the past, Roylance said, she has driven the boy home from school and talked to him about how much his mother worried about him. His mother was displeased with the friends her son was hanging out with last year, she said.
"I just can't imagine him doing (what he's accused of). It's not his thing," she said.
Logan said events like the teenagers' arrests shake the entire community.
"Anytime something like this happens, it is surprising. We expect good things from people, and we believe in people. Events like this are heart-breaking, especially when it's a student you know. It's sad and heart-wrenching," she said.
Logan said parents should be reassured, however, that statistics show school is still one of the safest places for kids to be.
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