A day after a Waseca County judge dismissed the most serious charges against a 17-year-old charged with planning to kill his family and as many students as he could at his high school, the boy's father said he doesn't believe his son would have carried out the plan.
District Judge Gerald Wolf on Monday threw out four charges of attempted first-degree murder against John LaDue, noting that prosecutors failed to show LaDue made a "substantial step, beyond mere preparation" toward committing the crimes.
His father, David LaDue, said Tuesday that police heightened the community's concerns by holding press conferences and releasing audio tapes and other records in the case.
"I think they really oversold the story so now there's a lot of angst," the elder LaDue said. "There's a lot of angry people. Angry at us, angry at the judge, angry at John. There's people that, you know, want to put him away for life."
Prosecutors charged his son with planning to kill his family and fellow students with a number of homemade explosives and a collection of firearms and ammunition. John LaDue, who still faces six counts of possession of explosive devices, returns to court Wednesday for a hearing on whether he should be certified to stand trial as an adult.
In an interview the night of his arrest, the 17-year-old told Waseca police that he planned to start the attack by blowing up a pressure cooker in the hallway between class periods and then throw pipe bombs into the school.
The judge's ruling on Monday left many in the community wondering what will happen next.
"Some people are angry," said Michelle Johnson, whose younger daughter attends Waseca Junior-Senior High School. "Some people are just concerned for the family, concerned for the kids at school."
Johnson was in downtown Waseca on Tuesday with her daughter, Hailey, who graduated two years ago from the school. Her husband works as a custodian there.
Since the beginning, Johnson said, the case has been disturbing but not tragic. She hopes LaDue gets the mental health treatment he needs now.
"You know, if that's what the judge thought was best, we pretty much have to go with it," she said. "And hopefully, he won't try anything again."
Others agreed with the judge's decision.
Jasmine Hollar, 22, said thinking about something and having a plan is not the same as actually hurting someone.
"Those were some really trumped up charges for what really amounts to a cry for help," Hollar said. "He didn't act on anything, and he planned it but didn't actually do it, and I feel that that shows more that he's just a screwed-up kid that needs some help, than he's an actual cold-blooded killer."
The case has brought international attention to Waseca, where many in the community remain apprehensive, Waseca schools superintendent Tom Lee said. It has helped that students are out of school on summer break, he said, but in a small town like Waseca such a high-profile case can stay on everyone's mind for a while.
"When this kind of situation occurs, there's a level of anxiety that exists," Lee said. "And that anxiety is a part of who we are as individuals. And when something like charges being dropped comes out, I'm sure that that puts a little bit of fire in some people's anxiety. In other people, they are more patient and recognize that there is a long way to go here."
David LaDue thinks much of the tension could have been avoided. He doesn't think prosecutors ever had probable cause to charge his son with four counts of attempted murder.
LaDue and his wife have stood behind their son in a case they believe has been mishandled since the beginning. He said the judge's ruling is vindication, but not relief.
"It doesn't feel like a relief, you know," he said. "To me, to charge him with four counts of attempted murder is just insane...None of us believed he made the slightest effort toward killing us."