16-year-old Rock Hill student arrested for school threats

Published 5:06 pm Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A 16-year-old girl has been arrested and jailed on seven felony charges for a series of threats aimed at the Rock Hill School system over the past couple of weeks.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless confirmed that a female sophomore at the school had been arrested in connection with the threats.

“She is currently housed at the Lawrence County Juvenile Center,” he said.

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The name of the person is not being released due to the child being under the age of 18.

The Rock Hill student has been charged with four counts of third-degree felony delinquency by making terroristic threats and four counts of third-degree felony delinquency by inducing panic.

On Nov. 16 and 18, the Rock Hill schools let out early because of bomb threats.

Then there were more threats this week with a bomb threat on Tuesday and an apparent threat online on Wednesday by someone allegedly posting “Hey y’all how about a active shooting game and a game where I throw Granads at you guys that are real ha that sounds fun buckle up.”

“The threats were posted over a social media page that was sent to certain other students, Lawless said.

These students would report that they had received a text message from a person they didn’t know,” Lawless said. “Our suspect would send threats and claim that there was a bomb in a particular building, or bombs in multiple buildings.”

Lawless said that the initial pool of suspects was both female and male, but the suspects were then whittled down to mainly just female suspects.

“We worked many hours on this with all these IP addresses bouncing everywhere,” Lawless said. “It has been trying, but we got some things to go our way, thank goodness.”

Lawless said the suspect would use a fake name to open an account virtual private network, a service that protects an internet connection and privacy online. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel for the data, protect online identity by hiding an IP address and allow someone to use public Wi-Fi hotspots.

“Once the message was sent, our suspect would delete the fake account they made. The social media site that it was sent over would also delete the message after a certain period of time,” Lawless said. “This made it very difficult to track.”

The sheriff said that his department used every resource they could to help solve this case including bomb-sniffing dogs from Ohio University in Athens, the Columbus Fire Department’s K9 units, the Ohio Homeland Security and the FBI cybercrime labs.

“Many hours of computer analyzing, as well as watching video footage of school cameras, and interviewing several students, led us to our suspect,” Lawless said. “This has been a trying time for all involved. The safety of our schools is a top priority, and I am very proud of my staff as well as the administration and staff of the Rock Hill School District.”