Awaiting a major ruling in his legal case, Waseca bomb suspect John LaDue has spent time in custody this winter reading the complete works of Shakespeare and sharpening his chess game, according to his father.

His case moved closer to a resolution Monday when the state Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's dismissal of the most serious charges against LaDue for his foiled plot to kill his family and blow up the Waseca Junior and Senior High School.

Found with bombs, guns and a detailed notebook that laid out his plan, LaDue prepared for the attack but never took actions that warranted the attempted murder charges the state wanted to convict him of, the court wrote in its opinion.

"We cannot invite speculation as to whether the acts would be carried out," read the opinion. The decision noted that in some states, the act of making preparations can be used to charge someone with attempted crimes, but Minnesota law specifically requires something more than that.

LaDue was caught April 29 of last year when a citizen called 911 to report a suspicious teen going into a storage unit. When police officers arrived at the unit, they found bomb-making materials and a surprisingly candid LaDue. He told police about his plan to kill his family, set a distraction for police, then attack his school with bombs and guns.

The attempted murder and attempted property damage charges were dismissed by a District Court judge in July. District Judge Gerald Wolf let stand six counts of possession of explosive devices against LaDue.

A three-judge appeals court panel heard arguments in January over the question of LaDue's preparations and whether or not they amounted to attempted murder. Monday's ruling by Appeals Court Judges Renee L. Worke, Larry B. Stauber and Terri J. Stoneburner could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

LaDue, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, is in custody in a youth facility in Willmar. His parents have stood by their son, saying they believe he never would have actually carried out the plan.

"It is what it is," said LaDue's father, David. "A child who was a young man who became enraptured with the idea of creating misery and mayhem."

LaDue said he believes his son's behavior was "99 percent fantasy."

John LaDue has done well while in custody, said his father. John would love to earn his diploma and then a doctoral degree in music, said David LaDue.

"His heart and soul are a work in progress and thankfully he was interrupted at a low point," he said.

"If someone like John was vulnerable to this it frightens me because I think it means very few young people wouldn't be."