ST. GEORGE — A Utah teenager accused of trying to set off a homemade bomb at his high school and defacing another school with pro-ISIS graffiti poses too big of a threat to public safety to be released before a preliminary hearing in May, a judge has ruled.
Judge Paul Dame said Wednesday the unidentified 16-year-old will remain in juvenile detention.
No explosion resulted and no one was hurt March 5 after a backpack with the explosive device was found emitting smoke in a common area of Pine View High School.
Charging documents say the boy told police that if someone got hurt, he probably wouldn't care.
He's also charged with misdemeanor graffiti and abuse of a flag for allegedly cutting up an American flag and spray-painting words including "ISIS" on a wall at a different high school in nearby Hurricane.
The FBI determined the terrorist group was not involved.
According to court documents, the teen told investigators he wanted to make it look like the group was involved but had no contact with its members.
Preliminary hearings typically are held within 10 days of an arrest. But the teen's defense attorney, Stephen Harris, told the 5th District Juvenile Court judge Wednesday he needs extra time to review a "volume of written evidence" and mental-health testing of the youth.
Deputy Washington County Attorney Angela Adams did not object. She said the case is "unusual and unprecedented."
Because the teen's case is in juvenile court he is being held without bail.
The preliminary hearing scheduled May 11 and May 18 will determine whether there is probable cause to take the case to trial and whether he should be tried in district court as an adult under the Serious Youth Offender Act.
According to court records, he's seen on surveillance footage in the Pine View High cafeteria eating his lunch before he left the cafeteria and placed one of two backpacks up against a vending machine.
Police said the backpack contained a metal soup can holding the separated shot and gunpowder from 24 shotgun shells. The powder was on the bottom of the container and the metal BBs were in a cup above. The can's lid was taped back on, and a fuse ran through a hole in the bottom. The backpack also held three 17-ounce bottles of gasoline.
There were 75 to 150 students in the area, according to court records.
The school was evacuated and a bomb squad was called after several students reported to teachers they saw smoke coming from the backpack.
"I would have been fine with it," if people were hurt, he told police, according to court records. "I don't really see death as bad; it's a new kind of way of life."4 comments on this story
Police say that on Feb. 15, he removed the American flag from the flagpole at Hurricane High School and replaced it with an ISIS flag he created himself. He also spray-painted "ISIS is comi" across 25 feet of exterior wall, police said.
When asked what he would do if he hadn't gotten caught, he told authorities he would have hung another ISIS flag to make it look like the terrorist group was in southwestern Utah.
"Then maybe after that try to contact ISIS, but I don't really know how to do that," he told police, according to court records. "I need to do more research."