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Girl, 12, Sentenced in Poisoning Attempt

Courts: Student given five years in juvenile facility for putting rat poison in teacher's drink.

June 27, 1996|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RIVERSIDE — A 12-year-old girl has been sentenced to five years in a supervised juvenile care facility after pleading guilty to pouring rat poison in her teacher's Gatorade, and prosecutors agreed to drop the more serious charge of attempted murder.

The girl showed no remorse for her crime, said San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen Parker-Parent, and the teacher was so upset by the attempt on her life that she was unable to finish reading a prepared statement at the girl's sentencing.

The girl was sentenced Tuesday by San Bernardino County Juvenile Court Judge A. Rex Victor.

The poisoning, which occurred last month at a middle school in the Lucerne Valley, east of Victorville, was a shocking crime, lessened only because another student in the classroom warned the teacher, Sondra Haile, not to drink the poisoned Gatorade just before the sixth-grade class broke for lunch recess, Parent said.

The San Bernardino County Probation Department will consider where the girl should spend the next five years, the prosecutor said. Options range from a group foster care home to a locked facility, she said.

An 11-year-old girl also pleaded guilty to felony poisoning for her role in taking the Gatorade off the teacher's desk so the other youngster could pour poison into it. Two boys, ages 12 and 11, have pleaded guilty to being accessories after the fact, a misdemeanor, for hiding the box of poison after its contents were poured into the teacher's drink, Parent said.

None of the other three students have been sentenced.

Parent said Haile had planned to retire at the conclusion of the last school year after 25 years in the classroom, "but she's finding it hard to retire on a note like this."

"She is angry because she was hoping to hear some remorse, and none was expressed," Parent said.

The 12-year-old had plotted the poisoning for more than two months before trying to execute the plan last month, Parent said. The youngster told investigators she was motivated because the teacher was "hard, strict and mean," Parent said.

Ironically, the girl had just successfully completed a special classroom project and "the teacher lavished praise on her and extended her special privileges," Parent said. But the student felt compelled to carry out the poisoning because she had boasted to other students that she was going to do it, "and she didn't want to back down and have it look like she was a chicken," Parent said.

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