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Teens sentenced for threatening to harm Gate City student

March 25th, 2014 10:18 pm by Wes Bunch

Teens sentenced for threatening to harm Gate City student

GATE CITY — A pair of teenagers convicted of threatening to harm a student last year at Gate City High School were sentenced on felony charges Monday during an appearance in Scott County juvenile court.

The defendants — who were identified at the time of their arrests as a 17-year-old male and a 16-year-old female — were originally charged with conspiracy to commit murder by the Scott County Sheriff's Office following the Oct. 4, 2013 incident. Those charges were equally amended prior to their convictions.

The two were sentenced Tuesday in Scott County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court by Judge Jeff Hamilton following their earlier convictions.

Scott County authorities declined Tuesday to release the pair's names or detail the punishment they received, due to their minor status.

"Due to the age of the defendants, we are limited in what we can say about the convictions," Scott County Commonwealth's Attorney Marcus McClung said. "I know that the original charges were mentioned ... by another agency; however, after a thorough investigation and review, the petitions where amended to an equally serious but different charge that fit the crime.

"We considered many factors including the seriousness of delinquent acts, the age of the defendants, the mental evaluations and testing of the juveniles, and the motive for the acts."

The charges against the teenagers stemmed from an incident that resulted in the Oct. 4, 2013 soft lockdown of the Gate City High School and Gate City Middle School complex. Several other schools in the vicinity were also locked down in some form.

McClung said the male and female were taken into custody by the Scott County Sheriff's Office prior to the beginning of school that day. Sheriff's office detectives and Virginia State Police began investigating the teens the night of Oct. 3 after being notified by the Gate City Police Department that a threat had been made on Facebook against the high school.

Although the suspects were in custody once class began, McClung said extra precautions were taken at the Gate City campus.

Those precautions, McClung said, included a heightened police presence and a sweep by a state police K9, and were carried out in cooperation with Scott County Public Schools officials.

"Due to misinformation posted on social media, (law enforcement and school) officials wanted to ensure parents of our commitment to the safety of the school children," McClung said. "There was absolutely no threat or danger to any of the students at that time."

Following the arrests, the sheriff's office said the suspects had been charged with threatening to shoot a fellow student. At the time, Scott County Sheriff John Puckett said investigators felt the teens had made a credible threat to harm another individual.

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