CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A teenager who authorities say brought an exploding pen to school appeared in court Wednesday, as his grandmother said he didn't intend to hurt anyone.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials wouldn't say Wednesday why Jessie Bauguess, 16, was sent from Vance High School to Turning Point Academy after last school year. They said he had "discipline issues," but said state law prevents them from discussing his student record.
His arrest Monday followed a pen explosion at Turning Point that sent a student to the hospital and touched off a massive investigation. Bomb squads shut down Bauguess' neighborhood on Mount Holly Road and probed the house with robots for two days, carrying out controlled detonations of the explosive, TATP, they say they found there.
After his court appearance Wednesday, Jessie Bauguess' grandmother said the incident has been blown "totally out of proportion" and her grandson didn't intend to hurt anyone.
"The way I understand it, he was trying to scare someone as a prank," said Elaine Cochran. "It was a sorry prank."
She said her grandson is a loner whose favorite subject is science.
"I know he likes to experiment with science things," Cochran said. "I guess that's what got him in trouble.
"I hate that my grandsons are throwing their lives away."
Jessie Bauguess was arrested Monday morning after the exploding pen burned a student's hand and sent fragments into his arm and chest at Turning Point, a CMS alternative school. Three firefighters were later injured as they tested explosives found at the Bauguess home.
The suspect's 15-year-old brother was arrested at the family's home later the same day, and the boys' mother, 37-year-old Tracy Bauguess, turned herself in to police Wednesday.
Cochran, Tracy Bauguess' mother, said her daughter is a hard-working single mom. She had already arranged with police to turn herself in Tuesday, Cochran said, before police announced she was wanted and asked the public to call 911 if they saw her.
"She's extremely hurt in all this," Cochran said. She said Tracy Bauguess - charged with three counts of malicious use of explosives and possession of a weapon of mass destruction - didn't know what her sons might have been doing when she wasn't around.
Wednesday afternoon, Jessie Bauguess, legs shackled, appeared in a dull green jumpsuit and black glasses in front of Mecklenburg District Court Judge Regan Miller.
He told the judge, "I think so," when asked if he had a lawyer.
Kirk Bauguess, the teen's father, then stood up and told the judge he's trying to raise the retainer fee for a defense lawyer. Miller ordered a public defender appointed for the teen until he has his own lawyer.
When the judge asked Kirk Bauguess if he had any questions, the father shook his head.
"I can't think straight right now, your honor," he said.
A moment later, he spoke up again.
"I did think of a question: How do I find out what hours I can see my son?"
The judge told him to check with the jail, then scheduled a hearing for next Thursday to decide if the teenager's bond - currently $500,000 - should remain the same.
Kirk Bauguess declined comment after the court appearance.
Police wouldn't say Wednesday whether they believe Jessie Bauguess was planning anything more serious than a prank exploding pen, or specify exactly how much TATP - a powerful and unstable explosive - they found in his house.