CHESTERFIELD — An 18-year-old accused of planning to bomb his high school was charged Tuesday with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a possible life sentence, as more details of his potentially deadly scheme emerged.
Ryan Schallenberger's journal contained an entry made last month that contained a timeline for an attack that included how he would lock his school's doors and where he would place more than five explosives in the building, prosecutor Jay Hodge said after a court hearing for the teen.
"The kid needs help, but this is a violent offense," Hodge said. "You can't put an entire community in fear and just walk away. In this situation, society requires jail time. There's no way to excuse or forgive what he did."
Authorities have described Schallenberger as a straight-A student who has seemed confused since his arrest. Cuffed and shackled, the skinny teen with a wispy mustache smiled and gave a quick wave Tuesday to courtroom spectators who included his parents and some classmates.
Schallenberger was arrested Saturday after his parents called police because he had ordered 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate through eBay, which they retrieved after getting a delivery notice from the postal service, authorities said. Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer that was a component in the deadly 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Authorities have said Schallenberger could have assembled bombs within minutes with the materials they found. Police said they also found bombing plans in the journal, including a hand-drawn map of the school, and the hate-filled diary lauded the Columbine killers.
Authorities also said they found an audiotape that Schallenberger wanted played after he died.
Hodge on Tuesday said that the 50-page journal also contained some attempts at self-analysis and that the teen knew what he was planning was wrong. "He had a temper," the prosecutor said.
The journal did not name a target for an attack nor did it specify whom Schallenberger wanted to harm, the prosecutor said.
After the hearing, one classmate disputed characterizations of the teen as a loner. "He had plenty of friends. He was a likable person. He was the type of person that, if you weren't happy that day, he'd make you smile. That's why it was such a shock. He obviously kept all this bottled up," said 18-year-old Hanna Huntley, recounting how the teen made students laugh by singing songs from the cartoon "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Schallenberger's mother and stepfather, John and Laurie Sittley, sat behind him in the courtroom, his stepfather shielding their faces from the media with a white envelope. They have not commented about the case and rushed from the courtroom after the hearing, but authorities have described them as heartbroken over the arrest. Their phone number is unlisted and their home off a dirt road about 10 miles from the school has "No Trespassing" signs posted.
Defense attorney William Spencer, who was appointed for the state charge, said the teen doesn't want to post bond or have a mental evaluation, which prosecutors had talked about seeking. Spencer said that after meeting with Schallenberger a day earlier, he thought his client was competent to defend himself. Hodge said the state would defer to the federal court on whether the teen should have a mental evaluation.
During the hearing in Chesterfield, prosecutors formally requested to change the state charge from making a bomb threat to possession of bomb-making material, which carries a sentence of two to 15 years in prison. The federal charges will take precedence, however, and Schallenberger was taken to a federal courtroom some 50 miles away in Florence to face those accusations and get another defense attorney.
Kevin McDonald, acting U.S. attorney for South Carolina, said Schallenberger waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday. Attorney Michael Meetze, appointed as the teen's defense lawyer for the federal charges, did not return a call from The Associated Press.
McDonald said the federal weapons charge comes into play because Schallenberger ordered materials that can be used for bombs through the mail. An eBay spokeswoman said the company is cooperating with the investigation and did nothing illegal.
The teen faces two lesser federal charges: attempting to use explosives on a building that gets federal funding and using interstate commerce to obtain explosives to be used against people and property.
Meanwhile, officials in this town of about 1,500 people in the northeastern part of the state said three-quarters of the students attended school Tuesday, a day after more than half did not show up.
AP writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia contributed to this report.