Teen Accused of School Threats Appears in Court

A Vermont teenager accused of drafting a "murder list," naming classmates and educators from South Burlington High School, appeared in federal court in Burlington Monday.

Josiah Leach, 18, of South Burlington, was ordered held by U.S. Marshals for at least several more days, while attorneys dig into his background and await a decision on whether he can be released into the community while the court case against him proceeds.

Leach did not enter a formal plea at the hearing. That will come at a later date.

While the system still presumes him innocent until proven guilty, a conviction on an allegation he used methods of interstate commerce to transmit threats of violence could mean up to five years in prison.

Loved ones declined comment after the hearing, but a young man did briefly say the teen is not a bad guy.

In the criminal complaint filed with the court, an FBI cyber-crimes agent outlined eight threats Leach is accused of making against South Burlington High School over four days last week.

One of the threats came via phone, detectives said. The others came via email or social media messages.

According to investigators, the written threats contained claims like, "I'm going to kill you and all your students ... it's fate."

Those messages led to classroom lockdowns, dismissal changes, and even a district-wide school cancellation Friday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher acknowledged in the hearing that investigators did not find weapons when they arrested Leach Friday.

The FBI investigator who authored the criminal complaint described in the document how she traced the student's internet activity–digital fingerprints, of sorts—on several email addresses and a handful of devices and providers, to link him to the cyber threats.

Police said late Friday the suspect's inability to hide from the law should dissuade any copycats.

"We have a significant dent in this community to trust; to a feeling of safety and security," Chief Trevor Whipple of the South Burlington Police Department said. "So what I hope is that this is a beginning to a healing process."

The next hearing in the case was set for this Thursday morning, when lawyers will revisit that question about whether Leach could be released into the community.

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