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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2007
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Sparkman School scare over; runaway caught

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

SOMERVILLE — Sparkman School Principal Ronnie Moore finally lifted a modified lockdown Friday after Huntsville police arrested a runaway in a South Memorial Parkway apartment.

Somerville Police Chief Joe Mann said Huntsville police picked up the 14-year-old at about 11 a.m. without incident at an apartment complex near Wal-Mart. They handed him over to Somerville police at about 11:30.

The arrest comes a week after the teen's disappearance after he allegedly made threats toward the school and its students, took his step-father's .45-caliber handgun and then left with three friends.

After hearing of the threats Sunday night, Moore had the Morgan Sheriff's Department search his school Monday morning before students and staff arrived. He then put the school under modified lockdown.

Mann said the boy faces charges of making a terrorist threat and second-degree theft of property for allegedly taking the gun.

The teen had a hearing in Morgan County juvenile court Friday afternoon to decide whether to release him into the custody of his parents or continue his detention in an area juvenile facility, Mann said. The results of the hearing were not available because the teen is a juvenile.

Moore expressed relief that the ordeal is over. Several parents volunteered to help Somerville police officers monitor morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups.

Under the modified lockdown, no one could enter or leave the school building without Moore's permission.

Teachers kept classroom doors locked and students could not be in hallways without an adult escort. He also kept students out of large open areas, thus limiting physical education classes to watching movies this week.

"When I announced that this is over, everyone cheered like they were at a basketball game," Moore said.

He called the week "a little bizarre" and said the modified lockdown was "beginning to wear on everyone. You could tell the teachers were nervous and worried about the kids."

The teen went to Challenger Middle School in Huntsville until December 2005, when he withdrew. He was home-schooled in Mississippi during the spring 2006 semester before enrolling at Sparkman in August.

Moore said he was "pretty worried" Sunday night and Monday morning but then began to feel "more at ease, but still worried" when a student witness told authorities that the teen was probably in Huntsville. Authorities believed he was staying with friends who hid him during a previous four-week disappearance.

"I still felt apprehension because, if his friends gave him access to a car, it wouldn't take him long to get here," Moore said.

After dealing with his legal issues, the teen faces penalties with the school system. Moore said he doesn't want the teen to return to Sparkman so school officials' options are the alternative school or expulsion.

"We'll deal with that when the time comes," the principal said.

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