Student charged with murder in fatal stabbing at suburban school

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) – Moments after a 15-year-old student was stabbed to death Friday at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, a 16-year-old classmate blurted out, “I did it. I did it,” to police, a prosecutor said.

John Odgren, 16, of Princeton, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of James Alenson, 15, a freshman from Sudbury, an affluent town about 17 miles west of Boston.

A police report said that after the stabbing, Odgren also said: “Is he OK? I don’t want him to die.”

Authorities would not comment on a possible motive for the stabbing.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone said a fight broke out at about 7:20 a.m. Friday between Odgren and Alenson in a school bathroom and spilled out into the hallway, where the stabbing took place.

Odgren’s attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, said Odgren has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, and has been taking medications for many years.

“The defendant has a history of fairly serious psychological diagnoses and has also suffered from hyperactivity dysfunction for many years,” Shapiro said. “What is clear is John has a serious disability.”

Framingham District Court Judge Paul Healy ordered Odgren held without bail. In addition to the murder charge, Odgren is also charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon illegally in a school. In first- and second-degree murder cases in Massachusetts, anyone age 14 or older is automatically tried as an adult.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bennett said Odgren stabbed Alenson twice with a long knife – once in the abdomen and once in the heart. Alenson also had cuts on his neck, Bennett said. The knife was found inside the school bathroom where the incident took place.

Bennett said witnesses saw Odgren leaving the bathroom area.

“The timing of the stabbing strongly suggests that Mr. Odgren planned this premeditated murder and took Mr. Alenson’s life,” Bennett said.

Shapiro requested that Odgren be held in a secure facility at Children’s Hospital in Boston until his next court date on Feb. 2 so he could be evaluated on his mental competence. Healy declined the request because he did not know whether Children’s Hospital would accept Odgren. The judge said Shapiro could renew his request after checking with the hospital.

Odgren’s parents, Paul and Dorothy, silently consoled each other as they sat in the front row of the courtroom’s seating area and stared at their son, who occasionally looked back toward them. Shapiro said Paul Odgren is a cell research biologist at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. He said Dorothy Odgren is a registered nurse. She has worked as school nurse in Holden. The Odgrens live in Princeton, according to court records.

No one from Alenson’s family attended the arraignment.

Outide the courtroom, Shapiro said, “This is a tragedy for all involved. My client and his family feel for the victim and his family.”

Mourners held a candlelight vigil outside the school later Friday. Hundreds of people also posted messages of condolences at the Internet social-networking site, Facebook.

The director of a New Hampshire camp Alenson attended for four summers said he remembered the youth as someone who never caused problems or fought with people.

“The kids in the cabin always pointed at him: ‘You’re the one who never gets in trouble,”‘ Rick Ross, director of Camp Mi-Te-Na, told WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H. The camp in the state’s Lakes Region is run by the Manchester YMCA.

His middle school speech team coach remembered Alenson as quiet and easy-going.

“I cannot imagine him getting into a confrontation with anybody,” Deanie Goodman, who coached Alenson for two years at Wilson Middle School in Natick, told The Boston Globe. “He was a really sweet kid, somewhat shy, a little bit quiet, and really easy-going. I could not believe this would happen to a kid like that.”

But the youth wasn’t a pushover, a former classmate said.

“When people would make fun of him, he wouldn’t let it go,” Cassie Kosky, 15, a freshman at Natick High School told the Globe. “He wouldn’t flip out, but would come up with a remark.”

The stabbing stunned Lincoln-Sudbury High students as they reported for school.

Mary Clemens, a 17-year-old senior, said that a friend called her Friday morning on her way to school to tell her the building had been locked down. When she arrived, she saw students gathered in the cafeteria.

“We were told by an administrator that someone was stabbed and it was bad, that that person was taken to the hospital and someone else had been taken to the police,” Clemens said.

“It was shocking,” she said. “You would never expect something like that to happen at our school, but I guess it can happen anywhere.”

All of the school’s approximately 1,600 students were sent home at about 10:30 a.m.

“We’re obviously heartbroken dealing with this,” said John Ritchie, the school’s superintendent and principal.

State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll called the stabbing “everyone’s worst nightmare.”

“The presence of violence in our society today is almost incomprehensible,” Driscoll said in a statement. “It is only made worse when it occurs between young people and impacts the lives of our children. A tragedy of this magnitude defies explanation.”

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