A West Virginia teenager has been arrested and charged with making terroristic threats against other students in his Cabell County high school. He's also been charged with stalking. According to authorities, the teen was keeping a "kill list" of people that he wanted to eliminate and had a letter threatening at least one individual on his phone.
The student maintains that he never intended to act on his list or his threats, but the authorities are treating the issue extremely seriously. This is the second incident of this type in the state within the last month. Another 18-year-old at a different school was charged with a similar crime.
In West Virginia, acts of terrorism include anything that could result in serious bodily injury to the victim or damage to property or the environment -- even if the act isn't completed. In the past, teens who contemplated violence against their peers might have been treated with leniency and compassion. In this day and age, however, making a list, pulling a fire alarm or making threats is enough to get a teen convicted of a felony. A conviction could result in up to three years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines for the young men involved in these cases.
It's important to remember that teens still haven't completed their neurological and emotional development. They may act impulsively and in short-sighted ways. While it's never a good situation when a teen has the kind of emotional disturbance or built-up anger that it takes to create a "kill list," there are often underlying issues that need to be addressed. Prison isn't always the right answer in these kinds of situations. However, it takes an experienced defense attorney to convey that idea successfully to a judge or jury.