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Marshall County High School Shooting Suspect to Face Murder and Assault Charges

Matt Markgraf

Prosecutors won't yet seek attempted murder charges against the 15-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting spree at Marshall County High School and will charge him with first-degree assault for now.

Assistant Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall told reporters Wednesday that the 15-year-old boy will face 12 counts of first-degree assault instead of attempted murder because they feel they have a better case for those charges right now. Darnall pointed out that the penalties for first-degree assault are the same as for attempted murder.

The teen will also face two counts of murder.

Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both 15, were killed and another 18 people were injured when a classmate opened fire Tuesday morning at Marshall County High School.

Assistant Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall outlined the procedure in this case from a prosecution standpoint and addressed the charges. 

"Kentucky law requires in a case like this that a probable cause and detention hearing be held within 48 hours of apprehension and that has been scheduled." The probable cause hearing is like a preliminary hearing for an adult case, where evidence will be presented indicating that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime. The second phase is a detention hearing, analogous to a bail hearing for an adult charge. Paperwork will then be filed to classify the defendant as a 'youthful offender' - a process to charge him as an adult.

The plan is to ask the court to certify him as an adult. At that point, the Grand Jury in Marshall County is scheduled to meet on February 13. There are no plans to schedule a special grand jury. They expect the case will be ready to be presented at that time. Investigations are still ongoing, but progress is being made.

The two counts of murder have been charged. The 12 counts of attempted murder will be 'assault first,' which carries the same penalties. The reason, Darnall said, is based on the available information. Attempted murder, he said, is an offense that takes into account motive and specific intent. Assault first elements are 'serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument.' "As of right now, we believe the better case in as assault first charge as opposed to an attempted murder," he said. Adding that this is subject to change as the investigation is ongoing.

The grand jury will have the final say-so on this case as to what charges are brought. The case will then be transferred Marshall County Circuit Court, when it becomes a public case. Until then, proceedings are confidential. "All proceedings are closed. Only essential court personnel, victim and victim parents, the defendant and his parents will be allowed in the courtroom." 

Marshall County Superintendent Trent Lovett said thoughts and prayers are with victims. He thanked staff, administration and students for handling the situation. He said first responders "handled the situation tremendously."

Lovett said he has been advised to get back to normalcy as soon as possible. Beginning Thursday, elementary and middle schools will be in session at regular time. Parents can attend school with their child if needed. Buses will run at normal time. The high school will not be in session on Thursday. Further information will be released at a later time. 

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