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Suspect arrested in southeast Ohio schools’ threats

School districts praised for following safety protocols

Following the apprehension of a suspect in the series of bomb and active shooter threats that plagued southeast Ohio schools in the last week, schools are back in session today.

In custody:

¯ Nicholas John Frances Hall, 18, of 1385 Washington Road, Thomson, Ga., was arrested Tuesday in McDuffie County, Ga., on one count of inducing panic, a second-degree felony; and one count of making terrorist acts, a third-degree felony.

¯ Hall is to be extradited from Georgia to Ohio.

Source: Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Nicholas John Frances Hall, 18, of 1385 Washington Road, Thomson, Ga., was arrested in McDuffie County, Ga., by McDuffie County Sheriff’s Deputy Jared Land on Tuesday following a six-day investigation spanning three states and the coordination between multiple law enforcement agencies and school districts.

Hall was arrested on one count of inducing panic, a second-degree felony; and one count of making terrorist acts, a third-degree felony.

According to Georgia state law, a mug shot will not be made available by the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office, delaying a face to the name until Hall is extradited to Ohio.

Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mark Warden said Tuesday that Hall will “absolutely” be extradited to face charges in Washington County following threats to Waterford High School, Waterford Elementary School, Fort Frye High School, Beverly-Center Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, Warren High School, Marietta Middle School, Belpre Elementary School and St. Mary’s Catholic School.

Threats also rang into public schools in Athens, Morgan and Noble counties on Tuesday, and in Jackson County on Friday.

Photos by Janelle Patterson Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Hall, the dedicated school resource officer for Fort Frye Local Schools, reviews a new bomb threat call received by Secretary Linda Lawrence, seated, with Fort Frye High School Principal Andy Schob, left, at the high school Tuesday morning.

According to detectives, calls also went into Union County (area of Marysville) and Upper Arlington outside of Columbus.

But the original threats, first impacting Wolf Creek Local Schools, were the constant each school day May 6-11.

“We got the call first again today,” confirmed Wolf Creek Superintendent Doug Baldwin. “Then Fort Frye … Thankfully we weren’t in school today. But my gosh we’ve survived this whole year with COVID and now this … We will be back in session (today). And we move forward.”

Baldwin wasn’t the only official in the county to laud the resiliency of not only students but also staff, and the parents/guardians of children enrolled in local schools across the region.

School operations under lockdown

Muskingum County Sheriff’s K-9 Panzer runs with his partner Deputy Josh Whiteman through the Fort Frye High School auditorium Tuesday, checking for the scent of a bomb and followed by Beverly Police Chief Mark Sams.

When the call rang in at Fort Frye High School, students were still entering the building before first period.

“Let’s get them inside and into classrooms,” Principal Andy Schob spoke softly to staff manning the doors.

The school already had increased law enforcement presence, alongside Beverly-Center Elementary with bomb-sniffing dogs and the presence of the Beverly Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office on site.

Students were asked to not bring bookbags Tuesday and were all funneled through a single entrance with one administrator at the elementary explaining that “COVID-regulations come second to bomb threats.”

After shutting doors with students inside, a lockout again was put in place with Schob and Assistant Principal Rachael Tullius walking to each classroom to quietly pull teachers and inform them another threat had been called.

Photos by Janelle Patterson Fort Frye High School Principal Andy Schob directs students in study hall to move from the cafeteria during another lockdown Tuesday morning.

One teacher complimented the approach after being assured the building had been occupied by law enforcement throughout the night and was actively under sweep again by bomb-sniffing dogs.

“We don’t want to cause panic, just operate as normal,” Tullius explained to another set of teachers.

Both noted that while some school systems were experiencing their first threat Tuesday and dismissing early after evacuations (Marietta City Schools, St. Mary’s Catholic and neighboring counties) the Fort Frye district was following protocols guided by law enforcement and FF Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Starcher.

Warren Local Schools similarly operated under lockdown as normal, according to Warren Superintendent Kyle Newton.

Belpre Superintendent Jeff Greenley and Frontier Superintendent Beth Brown also both noted Tuesday that their districts also operated on standby but academics functioned as usual.

Investigation

According to the affidavit submitted to Marietta Municipal Court by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday for a warrant uploaded to the National Crime Information Center, Hall allegedly confessed to a deputy sheriff of the Georgia agency that “he made the bomb threats to get his girlfriend out of school.”

But Warden noted that the alleged girlfriend’s existence and/or attendance at a local high school had not been confirmed by investigators Tuesday.

The detective’s bureau of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is expected to recommend to the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office that repeated charges per day and per school threatened over the course of the four school days be presented to a grand jury.

The affidavit notes Hall allegedly used a mobile phone application to spoof multiple phone numbers for the calls to the schools, but each was allegedly traced back to Hall’s device.

“The detectives and deputies who initially started working these investigations started narrowing in on a social media platform,” Warden described. “They were able to execute search warrants through that social media platform which led them to Pennsylvania.”

The affidavit describes the use of the app and multiple email accounts which were tracked to a Pennsylvania internet protocol address with a witness in Minersville, Pa., allegedly confirming Hall had previously resided there before relocation to Georgia, to Hall’s grandmother’s home.

See Times’ online breaking news coverage Tuesday afternoon for a list of all agencies lauded by Warden in the extended investigation.

Warden noted additional investigation continues into Hall, with further details concerning the spread of threats expected to be withheld for any potential trial.

Hall, according to FBI records, also has a past criminal charge out of Lee County, Fla., for a first-degree misdemeanor of battery from March of 2018.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Watch Tuesday’s press conference

Washington County Sheriff’s K-9 Largo pants hard after clearing Fort Frye High School of another bomb threat Tuesday.

Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mark Warden reviews an affidavit of facts before submission of a warrant for the arrest of Nicholas John Frances Hall on Tuesday afternoon at the Washington County Courthouse.

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