A North Mecklenburg High student is charged with attempted first-degree murder after authorities say he choked and punched a female classmate in a wooded area behind the school.
Huntersville police said they are still trying to determine an exact motive in the attack, which happened after classes had ended Tuesday. But police said the 14-year-old victim told them she and the suspect had been friends for about a year, and she had turned down his advances after he asked her out on a date last month.
The 15-year-old suspect, whose name hasn’t been released because of his age, is being held at a juvenile facility. The girl he is accused of attacking was taken to Presbyterian Hospital for what police described as “very serious” injuries.
North Meck Principal Matthew Hayes said the incident was devastating for a school where faculty pride themselves on knowing and supporting students. No one had heard about any conflict between the two students, he said, and neither teen had a history of discipline problems.
Hayes says the situation seems to be “a friendship that went very bad.” He said counselors and administrators will work with the victim when she returns to make sure she gets the support she needs.
Huntersville police said they learned about the attack Wednesday morning when the victim passed out at North Meck.
As she was being looked after by first responders, police said the victim told them that “someone had tried to kill her.” The suspect came by the area, and the victim pointed him out as her attacker, said Huntersville Police Deputy Chief Michael Kee.
Victim: Lured into woods
The victim told police the attack happened after school Tuesday when she was in the North Meck band room with friends. The victim said the suspect got her to leave the room by saying he’d found something in the woods that he wanted to show her, Kee said.
The densely wooded area is about 300 to 400 yards from the school and down a hill.
When they got outside, the victim said she was knocked to the ground and the suspect got on top of her and began strangling her while wearing gloves, police said in a news release.
Police said the victim struggled with the suspect and pleaded with him not to kill her. The suspect allegedly punched her in the face and head, before strangling her again until she lost consciousness, police said.
Police said the victim came to and promised the suspect she would not talk about the incident “out of fear for her life.”
‘Lucky … to still be alive’
Kee said the victim had serious injuries typical of someone who had been choked.
“She’s a very lucky young lady to still be alive,” Kee said.
Huntersville police have a school resource officer assigned at North Mecklenburg, and CMS also has security personnel at schools.
Hayes, the school principal, said the incident reportedly happened after school, when students were “just hanging around.” Students are closely monitored during school hours and scheduled events, he said, but nothing was going on at the time.
“We urge our parents to please, please, please pick up students right after school,” he said.
He said the victim collapsed before classes began Wednesday – about three hours before Superintendent Heath Morrison and reporters arrived for a news conference to highlight North Meck’s career-technical program and talk about the budget. Her father was still with her when she was taken to the hospital, Hayes said.
Hayes said he and his staff didn’t learn details of what had happened until they got a report from Huntersville police Thursday. A ConnectEd message was sent to parents alerting them of what happened and said the school was working with police on the investigation.
Shocked staff assesses protocol
At a special staff meeting after school, Hayes said staff reviewed what they knew.
“We have gone back and revisited our procedures and policies to make sure there’s nothing we missed,” he said. “There wasn’t. …
“Both students had great track records,” he said. “There was nothing there that would have made anybody raise an eyebrow.”
In addition to the criminal charges, the suspect also faces discipline from the school system.
Police asked anyone with information to call 704-464-5400. News Researcher Maria David contributed.
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