The teenager accused of trying to kill nine people at a Gillette junior high school in November 2018 will continue to be tried as an adult in court.
Dale Warner, then 14, was charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. While his age classifies him as a juvenile, Wyoming law allows prosecutors to treat a juvenile 14 or older as an adult if the felony is violent.
Warner has since been bound over to District Court as an adult to stand trial on the charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Warner’s attorneys, local public defender Jefferson Coombs and Wyoming State Public Defender Diane M. Lozano, asked in September that the court move the case to juvenile court. District Judge John G. Fenn of Sheridan conducted a two-day hearing Oct. 28-29 to hear arguments for and against the request. The hearing was closed to the public.
Fenn ruled this week that the case should remain in District Court. His ruling, like the hearing, was confidential, but its listing in the court file is titled “order denying motion to transfer case to juvenile court.” He would make no further comment about the reasons for his decision.
If Warner had been tried as a juvenile, the proceedings would have been confidential and the sentencing would have been lighter if he were to be found guilty. Attempted first-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. In a juvenile case, the court’s jurisdiction ends when the child turns 21, even though it is rare for a juvenile to complete a sentence that long at the Boys or Girls School.
The next step in the case would be to set a date for a pretrial hearing. Warner’s attorneys also could appeal Fenn’s decision.
Warner remains in Campbell County jail under a $275,000 cash-only bond. He has been there since Nov. 13, 2018.
That morning, Sage Valley Junior High School officials learned that he had two guns at school and intended to kill nine students and staff.
His motive was to honor his biological father, who had recently died and who as a teenager had reportedly taken a gun to school. Warner took two handguns and ammunition from his father’s truck before getting on the school bus, according to testimony at his preliminary hearing.
Once he arrived at Sage Valley, he told a few friends about the students he planned to shoot and threatened to harm them if they told anybody. Before first period, he left a 9 mm Springfield XD along with some ammunition in his locker. He also concealed a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson in his waistband and placed rounds in his pocket.
He decided to shoot a class where he didn’t like the teacher and where the students “constantly made jokes about him,” according to an affidavit. He also planned to shoot “anyone who made him mad.”
Between classes, Warner reportedly showed a gun to a classmate in the hallway. After returning briefly to class, the student decided he had to let somebody know about it and went to the principal’s office to report what he’d been told.
Principal Terry Quinn immediately went to the class and disarmed Warner without incident.