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Sentencing delayed for former D20 student accused of planning attacks on schools

Elbert County judge needs specifics on DOC recommendations
Posted at 6:15 PM, Jan 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 18:02:55-05

ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. — A former Academy School District 20 student was back in an Elbert County courtroom Friday for a court hearing.

The judge is holding sentencing until January 30th. 18th Judicial District Judge Theresa Slade said she needs specific on a DOC sentencing recommendation.

19-year-old William Whitworth, who identifies as "Lilly" was charged in April with felony criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree and misdemeanor interference with staff, faculty, or students of educational institutions, menacing, and criminal mischief.

"I can tell you what I won't do is sentence somebody to something that I don't know what it means," said Slade.

Slade said the DOC recommended an intensive residential treatment program, but gave no specifics.

Former 10th Judicial District district judge said holding sentencing like this is not unusual.

"Every avenue should be explored before one takes a position of depriving someone of their liberty," said Dennis Maes.

During the court hearing Friday, Whitworth took accountability and said she learned her lesson.

"I know there's not many things that they want to hear from me or much that I can even say that will help them forgive me but either way, I'm truly sorry," said Whitworth.

Whitworth asked the judge for a second chance of life at a community correction program in Texas, closer to home.

"I will be an artist as long as you give me the ability to have a future, I promise you, I'll make something out of it," said Whitworth.

Victim impact statements were also heard.

Tonya Thompson was one of those who spoke Friday. She read a victim statement on behalf of Brett Smith, the Former Principal of Timberview Middle School, which was one of the schools that Whitworth was allegedly planning on attacking.

"Although the defendant did not have the opportunity to act on the plan, this is not a victimless offense," said Thompson on Smith's behalf. "The threat made against our school district shook the community to its core, instilling fear and anxiety in students, parents, teachers, and staff alike. It is impossible to overstate the emotional and psychological toll this incident had on the District 20 community."

Amy Kelso also presented a statement. Kelso is a Mitigation Specialist for the Public Defender's Office. She spoke on Whitworth's mental health improvement from medication and therapy while in jail.

"Lilly continued to fully engage in treatment because she was committed to better understanding and improving her mental health," said Kelso. "...Lilly has truly started the process of how me got here, and how to prevent any future situations like this from occurring... Lilly has fully engaged in the therapeutic process, and now has insight on her mental health."

Whitworth's father, Christopher Whitworth, was the next to speak. He mentioned that he was in Texas when the incident happened, as he and his ex-wife had split custody.

"I cannot even begin to fathom where any of us would be if we found ourselves in the same situation," said Christopher Whitworth. "Isolated from everyone that cared about us, in a place surrounded by trash, and when we cried out for help, we instead were left alone, and made to cope with alcohol... I know Lilly is capable of some amazing things if they're given a chance."

William "Lilly" Whitworth was the next to speak in front of the judge.

"I know there is not many things they want to hear from me, or much I can even say that will help them forgive me, but either way, I am truly sorry," said William "Lilly" Whitworth. "...There's a point when you look around, and you have no idea what happened... There are choices I made in the past that I regret, choices I will gladly take back."


According to the arrest affidavit, the Elbert County Sheriff's Office was called to a home in an unincorporated area after a family member in the home made claims that Whitworth had made multiple references to school shootings, and even allegedly threatened to shoot up a school.

Deputies spoke to the suspect at home about the concerns and reports of threats to campuses. According to a deputy, Whitworth nodded 'yes' when asked if Whitworth was planning to perform a school shooting.

Deputies noted that the suspect appeared to be intoxicated during their initial contact.

The deputy also asked what school the former D20 student had previously attended, to which Whitworth responded "Timberview Middle School." When asked if this was the school Whitworth was planning on attacking, the suspect nodded and gave "no specific reason" when asked why.

According to the deputy, Whitworth was about a third of the way from performing the school shooting and had been planning for a month or two. Whitworth told deputies that Timberview Middle School on Scarborough Dr in Colorado Springs was one of the "main targets," and the others were churches.

The deputy later asked how much knowledge Whitworth had about school shootings to which Whitworth replied "too much." The affidavit refers to a manifesto with an entire page referencing mass killings. The document allegedly includes drawings of classrooms and a detonator. According to the deputy, the suspect claimed to have found a YouTube video on creating a detonator.

According to the affidavit, deputies returned to collect evidence where they found more journals with details of a list of firearms and how to 3D print them, detailed lists of numerous named individuals to be killed and their intended casualty versus injury rate, information detailing the creation of improvised explosive devices, and the locations of Timberview Middle School, Prairie Hills Elementary School and Pine Creek High School.

There were no firearms or explosives in the suspect's possession or in the home at the time of the arrest.

“We often question how tragedies happen after it’s too late,” said District Attorney John Kellner. “In this case, a family member had the courage and strength to pick up the phone and call for help. I encourage everyone when it comes to school security, if you see something concerning to report it right away. That call may save lives.”

Whitworth was booked into jail on a $75,000 bond. According to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's (DA's) Office, Whitworth told jail staff that if she were to bound out of jail, she would try to carry out the original mass shooting plan.

A former District 20 student was back in an Elbert County court Monday to be arraigned for charges of allegedly planning attacks on three schools in Colorado Springs.

At that time, the DA's Office increased the bond amount to $750,000.


Bond increased for former District 20 student after threats continue in jail

“This case shows our commitment to taking threats seriously and being proactive in preventing a potential tragedy,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Eva Wilson. “We commend the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office for their investigative work on this case. We’re glad no one was injured.”

According to the DA's Office Whitworth faces a maximum sentence of 16 years. Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 19.