November 8, 2012
The 13 juveniles involved in vandalizing Smith-Cotton Junior High School Halloween night will face restitution, community service and at least six months of probation after an investigation by the Pettis County Juvenile Office.
According to Chief Juvenile Officer Mike Hughes, the group was made up of mostly Hispanic students between 14 and 16 years old. Two 17-year-olds also were involved and will be charged as adults through the Sedalia Police Department.
“The group, which was a mix of boys and girls, planned the night out, splitting into three groups with some members acting as lookouts,” Hughes said. “They spray-painted obscene language on the building, threw eggs and also spray-painted a vehicle that was parked there.”
Hughes said he hasn’t received an estimate on costs of the damage but said all of the juveniles would pay restitution equally.
“Even if they were just a lookout, they all broke the law,” he said, noting that three of the suspects “have a past” with the Juvenile Office and will likely be formally processed through the court system.
Hughes credited “a great working relationship” between his office, the Sedalia Police Department, the Sedalia School District 200 and School Resource Officer John Cline for the quick turnaround on the case.
“I haven’t seen a case like this where the vandalism is so wide-spread in 10 years,” Hughes said. “And the worrying thing is that they planned this out specifically. Some of the students we’ve seen before, but for 75 percent of them this was their first time involved in something like this.”
Hughes said all the suspects are facing charges of institutional vandalism, property damage, tampering and trespassing.
“The biggest thing I’d like to reiterate is that we’re not taking this lightly,” he said. “Those who were involved, and all juveniles in Pettis County, need to realize how serious something like this is.”
Hughes said his deputies are continuing to interview the suspects and are finishing up the investigation.