WASECA, MINN. – John LaDue, the teen arrested nearly two years ago for plot­ting a massacre at his school, could go home as soon as next week if auth­ori­ties can't find a spot for him at a state-operated treatment evaluation facility.

While his return home probably would last only until a facility bed opens, a judge said Wednesday that authorities can't incarcerate the 19-year-old beyond Jan. 28.

On that date, LaDue will have served his entire felony sentence for possessing an explosive device and can no longer be jailed, the judge explained during a hearing in Waseca County District Court.

As part of his plea last fall, La­Due had agreed to up to 10 years of probation, including an unspecified a;mount of treatment in a secure facility for his unusual combination of autism spectrum disorder and fixation on violence.

But as the legal proc­ess wore on and auth­ori­ties had dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate place to send him — their plans to place him at a Geor­gia fa­cil­i­ty fell through last month — they have been work­ing against the dead­line of his sen­tence end­ing.

If a bed in a state fa­cil­i­ty opens be­fore his sen­tence is over, he will go there. But if it doesn't, of­fi­cials are pre­par­ing to send La­Due home un­der pro­ba­tion un­til a bed be­comes avail­able — "what we hope is a short pe­riod of time," Judge Joseph Chase said.

Chase said he will is­sue a court ord­er this week to try to speed up place­ment in one of ap­prox­i­mate­ly a doz­en such beds in the state. He also said he an­tic­i­pated the ar­range­ment might up­set peo­ple in Waseca.

"I'm not very satis­fied with it my­self," he said. But, he add­ed, he is ask­ing the public to under­stand and "be­have in a man­ner that doesn't ex­ac­er­bate the sit­u­a­tion. … We'll get through this."

Af­ter his sen­tence is fin­ished, La­Due could le­gal­ly forgo pro­ba­tion, of­fi­cials said. But if he com­plies with the pro­ba­tion he agreed upon, a mis­de­mean­or will be put on his re­cord in­stead of a fel­o­ny.

Typ­i­cal­ly, in­mates who be­have well serve only two-thirds of a sen­tence and spend the rest out­side on super­vised re­lease. La­Due will have served his en­tire sen­tence but is agree­ing to pro­ba­tion.

"It's his wish at this time … to get help," Chase said.

If La­Due goes home, his par­ents have agreed to re­move any fire­arms from the house and deny him Web ac­cess. La­Due also could not leave the house ex­cept for authorized ap­point­ments.

Some time to talk

Police found La­Due in a Waseca stor­age lock­er in April 2014 af­ter a cit­i­zen saw him en­ter it sus­pi­cious­ly. He told auth­ori­ties of his plans to shoot his fam­i­ly, set a fire in the coun­try­side to dis­tract em­er­gen­cy of­fi­cials, and go to school with pres­sure-cook­er bombs and guns to kill as many peo­ple as he could.

Auth­ori­ties who searched the lock­er and the boy's bed­room had said they con­fis­cated chemi­cals, sev­er­al guns, am­mu­ni­tion and a few com­pleted ex­plo­sives. Officers con­clud­ed that he in­tend­ed to car­ry out the mas­sa­cre with­in a week or two.

The case has raised ques­tions about what to do with the teen, who had plot­ted but nev­er hurt any­one. His par­ents have said they be­lieve he nev­er would have car­ried out the plan.

La­Due's fa­ther said Wednes­day eve­ning that he and his wife were ex­cit­ed at the pros­pect of their son re­turn­ing home.

"We still have his gui­tars here and he'll have his cat here," David La­Due said. "I'll prob­a­bly of­fer, if he wants to, to look at the bas­ket of cards and let­ters we've re­ceived. … We'll have plen­ty of time to talk. We just want to have some peace and quiet. We'll just be glad that he's not be­ing held in jail, be­ing iso­lat­ed. We thank God very much for that."

Though he knows any stay would be tem­po­rary, David La­Due said he thinks it would be good for his son to get a break from the sys­tem be­fore he con­tinues on with thera­py.

"I know John has no in­ter­est in caus­ing any prob­lems. He wants this to be a mis­de­mean­or," David La­Due said.

While his par­ents were pleased, the news left some in =this southern Minnesota town of 9,300 a bit un­easy.

The pos­si­bil­i­ty was "very much a sur­prise," said form­er May­or Roy Srp. "My per­son­al feel­ing is we have to re­spect the ju­di­cial sys­tem, and if that is what the judge de­ter­mined, then that is what we have to live by.

"Now, it doesn't mean I like it."

Srp said he hopes the com­muni­ty re­acts with good­ness, and "that Waseca can re­main the peace­ful com­muni­ty that it is."

The Rev. Chris Meirose of First Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church called it a "no-win sit­u­a­tion." The teen, the judge and the com­muni­ty all want him to get treat­ment, he said, but "there's nowhere to get him the treat­ment … today."

Meirose said that per­haps a re­turn home will help La­Due: "He'll get time with his fam­i­ly, and may­be that will be good for him.."

Public safe­ty con­cerns

The case against La­Due ended in sharp con­trast to how it be­gan. Pros­ecu­tors in­i­tial­ly charged him as a ju­ve­nile with four counts of at­tempt­ed mur­der, two counts of at­tempt­ed first-de­gree dam­age to prop­er­ty and six counts of pos­ses­sion of a bomb by some­one un­der 18. But the at­tempt­ed-mur­der and at­tempt­ed-prop­er­ty-dam­age charges were dis­missed, with a state Appeals Court pan­el af­firm­ing that it could not "in­vite spec­u­la­tion as to wheth­er the acts would be car­ried out."

He e­ven­tu­al­ly pleaded guil­ty in a­dult court to just one fel­o­ny ex­plo­sive pos­ses­sion charge, with pros­ecu­tors agree­ing to drop the oth­er five.

Af­ter Wednes­day's hear­ing, Waseca County Attorney Bren­da Miller echoed the judge's sen­ti­ments, not­ing that a pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer will be check­ing in with John La­Due. She said she spe­cif­i­cal­ly asked that he re­main in­side the house be­cause she wants him to keep a low pro­file.

She cau­tioned peo­ple to call law en­force­ment if they have con­cerns.

"The last thing I want to do is to have to charge some­bod­y for going af­ter the LaDues," she said.

The plan to send him home if ne­ces­sary comes be­cause "we just don't have any time," Miller said.

"The oth­er op­tion is, we re­lease him and he goes wher­ev­er he wants," she add­ed. "I don't think the public wants that, eith­er.."

Staff writ­er Jen­na Ross con­tri­buted to this re­port.

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102