The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 27, 1998 · Page 12
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March 27, 1998

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 12

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West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Friday, March 27, 1998
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Page 12
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12A THE PALM BEACH POST FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 1998 S C School turns off alarm as students return 'It's just going to be as bad Monday as it is today . . from there we're going to start a new beginning. ' COLBY BROOKS Student - ly ; .7Z7r "fir . . Video, audio and updates at Palm Beach Interactive: www.GoPBI.com f - -1 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS School buses ride pass a white bow tied to a school zone sign as': students ride home Thursday. Students returned to school two days after two boys allegedly opened fire, killing five. Golden "Life goes on, and from there we're going to start a new beginning." Mitchell's stepbrother, Monty, a fifth-grader, didn't go to school Thursday, but his teachers came to his house with a letter from his classmates saying they still liked him and wanted him to return, Monty's father said. But Terry Woodard said he wasn't ready to send his son back. "I've been around this town," Woodard said. "These people don't forgive. . . . They don't see it that Monty didn't have nothing to do with it. They just see him as Mitchell's brother." Amid the grief that pervades this northwest Arkansas city, palpable in conversations and visible in the ubiquitous white ribbons and road signs expressing condolences and words of prayer, there is also anger over the apparently limited prospects for punishing the two young accused killers. Under the state's juvenile sentencing laws, Andrew and Mitchell may well be released by their 18th birthdays, even if they are convicted on every charge stemming from the five killings, carried out with deer-hunting rifles. In Washington on Thursday, Attorney General Janet Reno said she was exploring whether it was Johnson SHOOTING From 1A ' The father, who is divorced from Mitchell's mother and lives in Minnesota, described a brief meeting with his son that the authorities allowed him on Wednesday: "He broke down in my arms and he wept, afid he just said over aind over he was sorry and he wished he could take it back. He was very, very remorseful." While the boys studied the Bible or cried in the cells, the families of the young victims continued to deal with an almost unfathomable grief, planning funerals for their 1 1- and 12-year-old daughters. ; As classes resumed at West-sjide Middle School, the first thing officials did was turn off the fire alarm. Children were shot Tuesday as they left the building following a false fire alarm that Andrew has acknowledged setting off, officials faced the daunting task Thursday of offering reassurance after the doors reopened, primarily for counseling sessions. : About 80 percent of the 250-itiember student body returned tp classes Thursday. Students wearing white ribbons streamed into the building, and Karen No lessons were taught, and all outdoor activities were canceled, including recess. Students made cards for the 11 people who were wounded, including the five who remained hospitalized Thursday. Still, twice as many children as normal in the 250-student school stayed home. Erica Swindle, 12, who watched a friend die, said she wasn't ready to face her demons just yet. "It scares you real bad," said Erica. "I could have been shot in the back." Tristian McGowan, 13, one of the wounded and a cousin of one of the boys arrested, returned with his arm in a sling. Colby Brooks, 12, said he didn't see the point in putting it off. "It's just going to be as bad Monday as it is today," he said. possible to charge the boys under federal laws and, if so, whether the older boy might be tried as an adult. That could result in harsher penalties, but legal experts said that the grounds for trying Mitchell as an adult were extremely limited. In any event, such maneuvers, which many people re demanding, would still be unlikely to keep either boy in custody beyond the age of 21. Several lawmakers in the state capitol in Little Rock were already vowing to promote legislation that would increase the penalties for juveniles who kill, but none of those Curtner, the principal, sought to assure them by describing Tuesday's carnage as a "freak accident" that would surely never happen here again. With a number of children voicing their fears that another killer from Tuesday's ambush still lurked in the woods, law enforcement officials took the highly unusual step of insisting that wasn't so. "There is no third suspect," said Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police. "We have taken extra care to reassure all of those children. There is no third suspect." measures would affect the legal status of the two boys here. Craighead County Sheriff Dale Haas described the boys' demeanor Thursday and said it was not particularly unusuaffOr: that of juveniles facing charges;: even those formerly known foj toughness or bullying. "He's real emotional now, heJs"; crying," he said of Andrew. "He: wants his mama. I see a lol.of young kids in here, and most Of them want their mommy." Among the boys being held here are a 13-year-old accused -of shooting a 15-year-old schoolmate in the face. " Rental-car companies shouldn't pay for drivers' mistakes, Huizenga says The House's lawsuit-reform rental-car issue, at least, the Sen-plan was considered the more ate version is even friendlier to "business-friendly" version head- Huizenga and company. It coning into Thursday. But on the tains nothing like the House re quirement for rental car companies to pay up to $500,000 for an accident in cases involving a car rented to someone without in surance. Huizenga lobbyist Ron Book said, "It's another big step in a very long road." lie Wifeless For TI Of Tomorrow, minority leader Buddy Dyer. Trial lawyers, who stand to lose a major pocket to sue, say there is no requirement in the bill to lower car-rental prices, yet the public's burden for caring for injured people stands to increase. Reason: People severely hurt in accidents with rental cars may have to turn to welfare and Medicaid once their own resources run out. Attorneys said if the bill passes, they will appeal to the veto pen of Gov. Lawton Chiles or the courts. Chiles said he would study the bill carefully. "If it is just so some (business) interest does not have to pay, and that is transferred to the state or the people, that's something we would want to look at," Chiles said. HUIZENGA From LA "We are not going to claim a victory before it happens, but this is definitely a step in the right direction," said Huizenga Holdings Inc. spokesman Jorge Arrizurie-ta. The Senate bill had not previously addressed the rental-car issue after months of hearings. But Thursday's developments make it likely the limits will be a part of whatever final package the legislature passes in coming weeks. A squadron of Huizenga lobbyists could be seen at Thursday's committee meeting. ' "Let's just say there was bit of pressure on the members by the rental car industry," said Senate tail r nrneto ARE BACK! 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