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Officials say mother bought guns for Pa. teen charged with plot

Parents called unaware of boy's plans for weapons

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - A troubled teenager accused of plotting a school attack built up a stash of weapons with the help of his mother, authorities said yesterday.

Michele Cossey, 46, was arrested yesterday on charges of illegally buying her home-schooled son a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, and a 9mm semiautomatic rifle with a laser scope.

The parents were indulging the boy's interests because he was unhappy, not knowingly aiding a school assault, Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said. The parents didn't know of the teen's plans, but "by virtue of her indulgence, she enabled him to get in this position," Castor said.

Authorities have said they do not believe an attack was imminent and are not even certain one would have occurred.

"This was a smart kid that clearly believes he was picked on and was a victim," Castor said. "He had psychological issues and began to act out on those feelings."

Cossey's 14-year-old son, who was arrested Wednesday, felt bullied and tried to recruit another boy for a possible attack at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, authorities said. The teen previously attended middle school in the district but had been taught at home for more than a year after voluntarily leaving school.

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Acting on a tip from a high school student and his father, police searched the boy's bedroom and found the 9mm rifle, about 30 air-powered guns modeled to look like higher-powered weapons, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, videos of the 1999 Columbine attack in Colorado, and violence-filled notebooks, Castor said.

Michele Cossey bought the semiautomatic rifle at a gun show on Sept. 23 and provided police with a receipt, investigators said in court papers. The teenager said the two .22-caliber weapons were stored at a friend's house.

She was charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, and two counts of reckless endangerment and was later released on bail. She did not comment at the hearing.

The teen, who also had a brief court appearance yesterday, was ordered held at a juvenile facility while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.

He was charged with solicitation to commit terror and other counts, but his lawyer, J. David Farrell, stressed that all but one of the weapons prosecutors put on display were pellet guns and air rifles.

It is legal for children to possess air guns in Pennsylvania. Farrell also noted it is legal for a minor to fire weapons under adult supervision and said he didn't believe the students at Plymouth Whitemarsh were in any danger.

On his MySpace page, the teenager made frequent references to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and describes their 1999 massacre at Columbine High School as one of his interests. The page, headlined "Mess with the best, Die like the rest," features tribute videos to the Columbine shooters and includes a still from surveillance video of the attack.

Police, who searched the boy's home with his parents' permission, discovered seven explosive devices Castor has described as homemade grenades: plastic containers filled with BBs to which gunpowder could be added. Authorities said one was operable and the others had been in the process of being assembled.

The search did not turn up any ammunition for the semiautomatic rifle. Castor said he suspects the teen "was a target for bullies because he was overweight and not fully developed socially," but that mental problems might have exaggerated the effect of the bullying.

"I have read things that he wrote. . . . He has severe mental disturbances," Castor said.

The boy's father also tried to buy his son a rifle in December 2005, but was not allowed to because he was a felon, according to court records. Frank Cossey, 56, had pleaded guilty in 1981 to manslaughter in a drunken driving death in Oklahoma and spent about six years in prison, the records show.

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