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Continued: Waseca dad agonizes over son's dark side

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 11, 2014 - 11:52 AM

Prosecutors have charged him as a juvenile with four counts of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb.

If convicted of one count of first-degree attempted murder as an adult, he could serve up to 18 years, according to state guidelines. If convicted as a juvenile, however, he could be released from detention when he turns 21.

The teenager told police that he had an SKS assault rifle with 400 rounds of ammunition, a 9mm handgun with ammo and a gun safe with more firearms, all in his bedroom at home.

Authorities found seven firearms and three completed bombs there. Another three bombs, along with chemicals and other materials, were found in the storage unit. He also had 60 pounds of metal ball bearings.

Court papers say the teen described researching and buying some of the items online, using a PayPal account. Other scenarios in the charges include him stealing ammunition from a relative, buying a gun on his own and attempting to burglarize a home to obtain another firearm.

Second-guessing

Looking back, David LaDue, blue eyes peeking out from under a cap, said he feels he failed the boy by giving him more free rein than he should have:

John, a deer hunter, was allowed to keep some of his father’s guns in a safe in his own bedroom closet, partly because he was trusted to watch out for the family when his father worked overnights in the Twin Cities. John also was allowed to practice throwing Tomahawk knives at an old pine tree in the front yard — one that his father delayed cutting down because of the cardinal’s nest it cradled, he said.

David LaDue also gave his son the OK to walk to a friend’s house after the town curfew once, a decision that led to a citation for the boy, the elder LaDue said.

“I tried to indulge him in every way that I thought was harmless,” David LaDue said, adding later: “I feel responsible for everything other than his fantasies or imaginations that I was unaware of.”

David LaDue didn’t regularly rifle through his son’s bedroom because he felt he had no reason to. John was a good student, taking pre-calculus as a junior. He had friends. He had a job at the Hy-Vee grocery store. The family never heard of any bullying issues or fights or drinking or drugs. John was close to his sister, who is just 15 months older. He didn’t appear to be living in a shell. He was chatty about some things, though not typically about heartfelt issues. He seemed like a typical teenager.

“We’ve never had what I felt was a concrete reason to really be concerned,” David LaDue said. He said he knew of no storage locker or bomb-making materials or test blasts. He knew of no diary or shooting plan.

Community concern

As David LaDue continued to reflect, dark clouds rolled in over his neighborhood, which is not far from Waseca’s downtown. A U.S. Postal Service truck pulled up to the curb and a mail carrier jumped out, greeting the grieving father and handing him a small stack of envelopes. There were advertisements, a bill and a graduation invitation. And there was a supportive card from a local family — one of many the LaDues have gratefully received.

“It’s kind,” David LaDue said. “Considering how horrible it sounds, I’m a little amazed that people are still reaching out even though I’m sure there’s fears and concerns or maybe even misunderstandings.”

The LaDues have visited their son in a juvenile facility in Red Wing, but they haven’t asked him many questions.

He’s still not sure how his son gathered the chemicals and materials for bombs. His son had a job and a debit card. He said John would often be the first one to see the mail after school, and could have hidden anything ordered online before his parents came home.

“I haven’t wanted to grill him over things. There’s going to be plenty of time for that,” David LaDue said. “As far as his thoughts and feelings, he feels very responsible for everything.”

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