A family court judge has ruled that Christian Helms will be tried as an adult on charges he shot at a police officer and took pipe bombs to Socastee High School in September.
Judge Georgia Anderson issued her ruling this morning after she spent Thursday reviewing evidence from a three-day hearing that included testimony from 31 witnesses, the teen's journals and psychological reports from several mental health experts.
“These actions were premeditated, willful, aggressive and violent in nature,” Anderson said before issuing her ruling. “Both guns and pipe bombs are capable of causing great bodily harm and death.”
Helms’ parents, Traci and Jamie, declined to comment following the hearing. Helms showed no emotion other than he lowered his head to the table where he sat in the courtroom. His parents were visibly upset.
Helms is charged with attempted murder and weapon charges in the Sept. 21 incident in which Erik Karney, Socastee High's school resource officer, was shot at while talking with Helms inside his office at the school.
Police found two pipe bombs inside Helms' backpack and writings in his journal showed that he hoped to shoot up the school similar to the 1999 Columbine (Colo.) High School incident. Helms also had a hit list of students he planned to kill.
State officials sought the hearing because of the seriousness of the incident and wanted to prosecute Helms as an adult, said Alicia Richardson, senior solicitor for juvenile prosecution in Horry County.
“I think it was the right decision. It’s not a decision that anybody can take pleasure in,” Richardson said. “The goal of getting him waived to adult court is not just longer incarceration, but it’s longer probation and parole services.”
Richardson dismissed a charge of weapons of mass destruction against Helms. As an adult, Helms faces the charges of with attempted murder, two counts of possession of incendiary or explosive devices and two counts of attempted denotation for bringing them to the school with the intent of detonating them, Richardson said.
Traci Helms, the teen's mother, said Wednesday that Christian had been bullied by classmates for several years. The night before the incident the teen had a fight with his father and that may have spurred him to act impulsively.
"Please give him a chance at life. Please give him a chance to get the help he needs, to help him through all these issues and to help him become a productive member of society," Traci Helms said, with tears streaming down her face on Wednesday.
The teen's attorney, Russell Long, also said the boy, who had never been arrested before, deserved a chance to be rehabilitated and treated in juvenile facilities.
“We’re taking it. We’re going to deal with it. It’s certainly not over for us trying to help Christian,” Long said. “Everybody agrees he can be rehabilitated and he’s on the way to be rehabilitated and we’re going to step up that process.”
Long said Helms did not say anything after the hearing, but he thinks the teen was upset.
“He’s hit hard. He’s very depressed. It’s an awful lot to take in for an adult. It’s certainly an awful lot for him to take in. My fear is that he feels like everybody is turning their backs on him right now, but we’re trying to make it clear to him that’s certainly not the case,” Long said. “I don’t expect him to hear anything I have to say right now. He’s very upset.”
Mental health experts testified that Helms suffers from illnesses such as attention deficit disorders and severe depression. Traci Helms testified her son was diagnosed with ADHD in third grade and he had been treated with various medications.