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Suspect teen nervous in first court hearing

Suspect teen nervous in first court hearing

A baby-faced 15-year-old accused of shooting up his school and killing two fellow students made a brief first court appearance on Wednesday as stunned pupils returned to their cleaned-up campus on a day of tears, anger and mass counseling.

Charles "Andy" Williams looked nervous in the subdued courtroom where his arraignment on charges of murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon was continued for two weeks so that his lawyers could research whether they could stop him being tried as an adult.

Two people died and 13 were wounded in Monday's attack at Santana High School in the middle-class San Diego suburb of Santee. If convicted he would face several life jail terms but because of his age he would not be subject to the death penalty.

Defense lawyers said they wanted time to consider a legal challenge to the new California law that decrees anyone over age of 14 accused or murder must be tried as an adult.

PALE FIGURE, DARK DEEDS

Williams, a slight, pale figure with large dark eyes, did not speak during the hearing. Friends have said he was frequently bullied at school and although some of them heard him talking about taking a gun to campus, none took him seriously.

Several students turned up in court, angry or curious to see the boy accused of the worst incident of school violence in the United States since two teenagers killed 15 people, including themselves, at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

"I want to see his reaction and if he really realizes what he did," said Brad McGuinness, 17.

None of Williams' family was in court however. The boy moved to Santee with his father and brother last year from rural Maryland and rarely sees his mother.

"His father is part of this community. He is very distraught. At this point in time, they (family members) didn't feel they could face the media," Williams' lawyer Randy Mize told reporters.

Across the nation Monday's bloodbath inspired a series of copycat attacks. A teenage girl in Williamsport, Pa., opened fire in the cafeteria of a Catholic high school on Wednesday and injured another girl. In Kent, Wash., one high school student was arrested on Tuesday for bringing a gun to class and in Twentynine Palms, Calif., two students were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder after a rifle and a "hit list" of 16 fellow students was found in one of their homes.

NEW PAINT

Hastily repainted walls, filled in bullet holes and floors washed clean of blood greeted the 1,900 returning students on Wednesday.

School officials, backed by scores of grief counselors, called it a time of healing but the day was also marked by bitter recriminations against those students who said they had heard of Williams' plans but dismissed them as a joke.

"It's all cleaned up, but I can still see my friends being shot. I could still see the bullets ricocheting off the wall. It was tough," Brian Brinkel, 18, told reporters.

Three friends who have spoken widely to the media were excluded from returning to school for their own safety.

"There has been considerable anger expressed at those students," local school board superintendent Granger Ward told reporters.

Ward said the school had advised the parents of the three to consider seeking a different school for them in view of the intense emotions at Santana High. They are not expelled.

Jake Clark, 14, told reporters, "A lot of people here are angry with them and would go after them if they showed up."

A lonely group of three parents stood outside the school holding signs saying; "Andy did a terrible thing. Andy is not a terrible person. Andy needs your love and support."

Some families reported that friends of Williams were already being victimized and harassed by fellow students and families of the those shot.

EMOTIONS RAW

"Andy's friends are victims too and they need forgiveness," said parent Karen Boaz. She said her daughter could not come to terms with what had happened "It's all too emotional for her. She can't work through it."

Williams, whose parents are divorced, is said to have stolen the .22 caliber handgun used in the attack from his father's locked gun collection. Investigators have since seized seven other weapons from the family's apartment.

In an innocent home video shot by Williams and a Maryland friend last year and shown on the nationally syndicated show "Inside Edition" on Wednesday, the teen briefly films the gun case referring to it as the "no trespassing cabinet".

The video, in which Williams playfully shows off his Santee home for the benefit of friends in Maryland, also hears him comment on life at his new school. "My school is horrible. I hate it there, everyone is horrible to me," he is heard saying.

Friends in rural Maryland painted a very different picture to the smiling gunman arrested on Monday.

"He just has a gentle kind heart. The person I saw on TV in the police car was empty. That wasn't the boy who came and ate dinner at our house and called me mom," said Mary Nederlander, the mother of Williams' former Maryland girlfriend Kathleen Seek.

"He e-mailed us and told us that he just wanted to come home and that it was just awful over there. They were teasing him, calling him 'country boy.' He didn't dress right, he didn't look right. He was skinny, they called him gay," Nederlander told NBC's "Today" show.


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