Teen charged in school plot to be tried as an adult

John LaDue left the Waseca County Courthouse.
John LaDue left the Waseca County Courthouse in Waseca after his adult certification hearing, June 29, 2015.
Elizabeth Baier | MPR News file

A Waseca teen accused of plotting to kill his family and blow up his school will be tried as an adult, a district court judge ordered Friday.

John LaDue faces six counts of possessing explosives. Prosecutors plan to file a new criminal complaint that will bring the 18-year-old to adult district court for a first appearance on Monday.

The order comes after LaDue met with psychologists who've evaluated Minnesota school shooting cases including the Red Lake massacre that killed 10 in 2005.

Dr. Katheryn Cranbrook noted in her adult certification that "each [school shooting] involved 'targeted violence' by an individual without a previous record of violent and anti-social behavior," and LaDue's case bears some similarities.

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Cranbrook concluded that at his current state, LaDue poses a public safety risk, but it can be reduced with the proper treatment.

After spending time in a state juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing after his arrest in May 2014, LaDue was moved to the Prairie Lakes Youth Programs in Willmar. The order from Waseca County District Court Judge Robert Birnbaum asks that he immediately be transported to the Waseca County jail.

Psychologists diagnosed LaDue with autism and said his is one of the rare cases in which symptoms first arise in adolescence. They say he's detached from his family, has violent ideologies and doesn't acknowledge the serious consequences of his actions.

Friday's order details information from psychologists and counselors at Prairie Lakes. In some of his sessions with counselors, LaDue admitted to becoming obsessed with death, violence and killing. He said he enjoyed reading about "indecent, obscene things ... famous murders, but not ones based on sexual desire" and that he's interested in wars and weaponry.

When asked why he plotted to attack his school and kill his family, LaDue told counselors "I figured it would be very exciting and enjoyable. I certainly like watching it and I figured it would be better doing it," according to court documents.

LaDue also admitted to detonating explosives and incendiary devices around Waseca and told counselors that it "released pressure. It was very uncommon and illegal. I was happy I'd done it ... sometimes proud."

LaDue's attorney Dawn Johnson, a public defender in Owatonna, is considering an appeal. She said his clean criminal history, low severity level of the crime and participation in treatment should have kept him in juvenile detention.

"Our expert said that with the right kind of programming he could live in a supervised setting and obtain the necessary therapy that he needs while slowly progressing back into the community," she said.

Johnson and prosecutors disagree on the sentence terms LaDue faces. Public defenders say he's eligible for probationary release if sentenced on two counts because he was caught with explosives in two places — a storage unit and his home. But prosecutors charged him with six counts for possession of six explosives, which could mean a sentence of 60 years, if convicted.

Although prosecutors have to start all over with a new complaint and first appearance, the adult court will not have to determine if there is probable cause because that was already done in juvenile court, prosecutor Brenda Miller said.

LaDue was initially charged with attempted murder, but those charges were dropped.