EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 7, 2012

Methuen teen jailed for alleged 'Columbine' threat

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — A 17-year-old junior at Methuen High School is being held without bail after allegedly telling a fellow student he planned to “pull another Columbine” mass-shooting at the school.

A prosecutor at Jacob Butze-Maille’s arraignment in Lawrence District Court yesterday also said he threatened to kill the female student first if she told anyone about his plot

Methuen police arrested Butze-Maille Thursday evening.

He is charged with threatening to commit murder, intimidation of a witness, and willfully communicating a threat concerning a dangerous item.

Dressed in a black sweatshirt and dark pants, Butze-Maille sat quietly during his arraignment and was shielded from the view of a television camera by his lawyer and two courthouse security guards.

Judge Michael Brooks ordered Butze-Maille held without bail for up to 90 days. He is scheduled to appear in court again Jan. 4 for a probable cause hearing.

“There are no conditions (of release) that would reasonably ensure the safety of the community,” said Brooks. “These are alarming and disturbing allegations, compounded by the threat” to the student who reported it.

Several Methuen High students interviewed yesterday afternoon said Butze-Maille, or Jake, was rather friendly, though a couple reported having an off feeling about him despite saying he was nice.

“He was a very outgoing kid,” said senior Timothy O’Leary. “I couldn’t see him shoot up the school.”

Though he doesn’t know him well, junior Fouad Samar said nothing about Butze-Maille raised any red flags.

“He seemed like a normal kid,” said Samar.

Methuen Superintendent Judith Scannell said Butze-Maille registered at Methuen High School midway through last year.

“We do not tolerate threats, period,” said Scannell. “The administration followed protocol to a T and acted swiftly.”

Assistant District Attorney Kim Gillespie said yesterday in court that Butze-Maille’s alleged threats were first reported to school officials around noon Thursday.

“This defendant made what I’d characterize as a very specific threat to another student, informing her of his desire to pull another Columbine,” said Gillespie. “He went on to say specifically that he would buy an AK-47 that week and shoot them all at the school.”

Gillespie said Butze-Maille warned the reporting student that if she told anyone, “she’ll be the first one that is shot.”

School employees went on to tell police that Butze-Maille was previously overheard discussing Columbine, “guns and violence” and his desire to get a tattoo of an AK-47 assault rifle, according to Gillespie.

Twelve students and one teacher were killed in the April 20, 1999, massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. The shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, committed suicide afterward.

Once the threat was reported, Scannell said Butze-Maille was taken out of class and brought to an associate principal. A school resource officer then began an investigation that continued into yesterday morning, Police Chief Joseph Solomon said.

Solomon said the school was not locked down yesterday because it was determined there was no immediate threat.

“At no time was anybody in danger during the upcoming school day,” Solomon said. “That has been a concern of some people. The reason of the delayed notice was investigative necessity.”

Yesterday’s arraignment began with a lengthy sidebar conversation between Judge Brooks, Gillespie and Thrall. Brooks ordered that Butze-Maille have no contact with state witnesses in the case. He also impounded Butze-Maille’s court file, preventing reporters from viewing a police report detailing Thursday’s incident as well as other documents.

Defense attorney Jessica Thrall described Butze-Maille as “a young man with absolutely no criminal history” who had been working as a bagger at Market Basket for the past month.

Thrall said Butze-Maille had already been receiving weekly therapy at St. Ann’s Home and School in Methuen, which provides housing and support for children and adolescents with social, emotional, and behavioral issues.

Thrall asked that Butze-Maille be returned to St. Ann’s under heightened security and constant supervision. But Gillespie said the state Department of Children & Families did not support his return to St. Ann’s.

“They do also have concerns for the safety of the other individuals at St. Ann’s Home, just as we do for the people at Methuen High School,” said Gillespie.

Solomon said police have uncovered no weapons, but collected “note material” as evidence.

“We are unable to speak about it because of the impoundment order issued by the judge,” said Solomon. “We do have concern that it was more than the average veiled threat we hear from time to time.

“There’s no specific evidence about a specific type of plan, but based on the evidence that we’ve gathered, it was definitely something that was in the works. Was there an actual drawn-out plan? I can’t speak to that because of the impoundment, but it is something that from my years of investigating school incidents it did raise all of our eyebrows.”

Methuen police held Butze-Maille on $10,000 bail before his arraignment.

Solomon credited the student who reported the incident for speaking up.

“We really have to give kudos to this girl,” said Solomon. “It’s not an easy thing, particularly if you feel like you may be in fear. We ask that all our students at any time, if they come across a situation like this, they do exactly what she did.”