Pa. mom admits helping son build weapons cache

September 23, 2008 11:42:41 AM PDT
A woman admitted she helped her troubled, bullied 14-year-old son build a cache of weapons by buying him a rifle and gunpowder, but investigators still don't know if she was aware her son was planning a deadly school attack. Michele Cossey, 46, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Norristown to one count of child endangerment. She admitted that she bought him a rifle with a laser scope and gunpowder, which investigators said he was using to build grenades.

Her son, Dillon, planned an assault last year on Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, which some former schoolmates attended. Cossey, bullied over his weight, had left public school in seventh grade and was being home-schooled. Over time, he fueled his revenge fantasies through violent Internet sites, his defense lawyer said after his juvenile court plea.

Authorities did not think the school attack was imminent, but the boy did amass an arsenal - knives, swords, BB guns, the rifle and partly assembled homemade grenades - in his bedroom at his Plymouth Township home.

Police learned of the planned attack when Cossey invited a friend to join him. The friend went to police last fall.

Dillon Cossey is in a juvenile treatment facility, where he could remain until his 21st birthday.

Michelle Cossey's sentencing hearing won't happen until after she undergoes a psychiatric evaluation. The maximum possible prison term is 3½ to 7 years, but defense lawyer Tim Woodward said she could get less than a year - or even just probation - under sentencing guidelines.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Parisi said he doesn't know if Cossey knew about her son's attack plans, but that he hopes to learn that before sentencing.

"If it were to come out that she knew he was planning an attack ... that would certainly increase the severity of the crime," he said.

The judge who sentenced Dillon Cossey said that Michele Cossey had fostered a "me-and-mom-against-the-world" attitude in her only child. Parisi said he thought she was trying to "to boost his self-esteem, and in some way help the child, as misplaced as those thoughts may have been."

Woodward said: "I think it is easy to have a bunker mentality when your son is constantly being picked on by punks at school. Who wouldn't circle the wagons?"

Michelle Cossey used a walker coming into court and wept after stating her guilty plea. Woodward described her as "fragile."

She has had twice-a-month supervised visits with her son, is missing him and wants him back home, Woodward said.

"Her ultimate goal is to be reunited with her son," the attorney said. "She does admit that she made some mistakes."

The boy who tipped off police was praised for averting an attack and later met President Bush - only to be arrested himself, along with two others juveniles, for later breaking into the Cossey home to steal video games, air guns and other items.

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