WASECA, MINN. – His time behind bars complete, John LaDue was moved out of the Waseca County jail Thursday and taken to a state facility in a placement so secret that not even his parents initially knew where he was going.
LaDue, shielded from view by the tinted windows of a sheriff’s office SUV, was driven away from the county jail building about 1:30 p.m. As part of his sentence, he has agreed to be evaluated and treated.
It was a quiet exit, and a stark contrast from the national spotlight that shone 21 months ago, when police arrested LaDue, then 17, and held a news conference after finding him with bomb-making materials and detailed plans to kill his family and set off a massacre at his school.
LaDue had told police on the night he was arrested that he wanted to see a psychiatrist. On Thursday, the sheriff’s office transported him to a state facility under orders from a judge.
On Thursday night, LaDue’s father said his son called and told his parents the town where he is being housed. The father declined to share that location.
LaDue’s release from jail capped a drawn-out legal case that started with attempted murder charges — which the courts later dismissed, saying he hadn’t taken steps substantial enough to warrant such charges — and ended in a single negotiated guilty plea of possessing an explosive device.
As part of his sentence, LaDue, now 19, agreed to undergo an unspecified amount of treatment during probation up to 10 years. If it is successful, his felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor on his record.
“John has cooperated throughout and is cooperating now,” said his attorney, Third District Chief Public Defender Jeff Johnson. “He’s looking forward to going to a place that will help him transition from adolescence to adulthood and get any help that he needs.”
For a while, it was unclear where LaDue might end up after leaving jail. As late as Wednesday evening, he was set to head home temporarily, after state officials had said there were no beds available at facilities where he might be evaluated. That morning, corrections and sheriff’s officials searched his parents’ house in anticipation of his arrival, making sure there would be no possible weapons or Internet access available.
LaDue’s parents, who have steadfastly supported their son, believing he never would have carried out the attacks, were excited for his return, his father said. David LaDue said they had rented DVDs of classic movies for him their son to watch and were looking forward to spending quiet time with him.
They heard late Wednesday that he would not be coming home after all, the father said, but were given no details. On Thursday, they heard nothing until John’s evening call.
LaDue’s trip to a treatment facility is “what should have happened 21 months ago,” David LaDue said.
Since his arrest, John LaDue has been diagnosed with an unusual combination of autism spectrum disorder and a fixation on violence. Officials had been scrambling to find a treatment spot for him after a planned placement in Georgia fell through.
On Monday, a judge ordered the Minnesota Department of Human Services to find a spot in-state by the time LaDue’s sentence ended Thursday. A department spokeswoman said officials there cannot provide any information about specific clients due to privacy laws.
The news that LaDue wasn’t returning home was greeted with little fuss in this city of 9,300 residents.
Neil Peterson, who picks up his 14-year-old grandson from school every day, said he was glad to hear LaDue was headed for treatment.
“I think he really needs more counseling before he gets out,” Peterson said.
It was a common sentiment across Waseca.
School Superintendent Tom Lee said he believed the overwhelming sense by many was that they were glad to see him getting help before returning.
Mayor John Clemons said those he’s spoken with “wish him well and hope he gets whatever help he needs.”