Monday, October 19, 2009

Teacher Worried For Student Held In Killing

From the Tyler Morning Telegraph:
A Tyler teacher, who was the victim of a fatal stabbing in his classroom, called a friend days before the attack saying he feared that the teenager who is now being held in his death was capable of killing.

Special education teacher Todd Henry, 50, had told his friend, Mitch Shamburger, a Smith County justice of the peace, during a chilling phone call that he was concerned about a “Katrina kid” — so named because he had survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“This kid — he’s got serious problems,” Henry told Shamburger. “If somebody doesn’t do something, soon, this kid is going to kill somebody.”

Shamburger recalls advising his friend to document his concerns and alert his bosses. Henry said he already had.

Henry died a few days later on Sept. 23 after he was stabbed in the heart in a classroom at John Tyler High School. Authorities are holding one of his students for the murder. A Texas Education Agency spokesman says it was the first teacher slaying in a Texas classroom that anyone in the agency can recall.

The 16-year-old suspect had a history of mental illness and had been accused of other violent acts, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday, based on public sources and people close to the murder investigation.

Smith County prosecutors are considering whether to try the youth as an adult. He is being held in the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center, and will have his next detention hearing on Nov. 2.

The youth’s mother said that by age 12, he had been in mental hospitals in Texas and Louisiana. At 14, he was in a Smith County juvenile lockup and then in a Texas
juvenile prison for stabbing his sister with a steak knife.

He was often placed in isolation while being held in a Texas Youth Commission facility and was sent to a state mental hospital. He was diagnosed schizophrenic and psychotic and transferred to the state’s most acute mental health facility for juvenile offenders. Last July, the agency declared him too disturbed for reform school. The commission sent him home to his mother without parole or treatment plans, according to records the family released to the newspaper.

His mother told the newspaper he should never have been in Henry’s classroom and that he sees and hears things other people don’t.

She described Henry as a caring teacher, and said her son regretted everything. “He said, ‘Mom, just tell everybody that I’m sorry.’”

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