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Cops Can’t Prove Ark. Boys’ Threat

April 18, 1998

HECTOR, Ark. (AP) _ Sheriff’s officials say they cannot substantiate a claim that two boys accused of killing their father made a separate threat to gun down their classmates like those killed in the Jonesboro schoolyard shootings.

Authorities said they closed an investigation into brothers Jesse Ethan Eldridge, 15, and James Neal Eldridge, 14. The brothers had been allowed to attend school while awaiting trial.

``We were never able to substantiate a threat,″ Sheriff Jay Winters told The Russellville Courier in Friday’s editions.

Defense attorney James Dunham said claims that the boys had threatened to chase their classmates from the school with a fire alarm, and then shoot them, were ``ridiculous.″

The same method was used March 24 at a middle school in Jonesboro when four girls and a teacher were shot dead. Two students face charges there.

Dunham said he was aware of an allegation by one student that something had been said by one of the Eldridge boys _ but that it could not be proven.

The lawyer acknowledged that Jesse was removed from the school, but not for reasons related to the allegations. He said there were ``personal reasons.″

School officials said Jesse did not bring a BB gun to school, as some students had said on Thursday.

According to police, the boys shot their father in January after he caught them smoking, whipped them and ordered them to write essays on the dangers of smoking. The boys were charged as adults and released on $50,000 bond each.

When they returned to school, the school district said other students wouldn’t be endangered by their presence. State education officials said the boys couldn’t be barred because the shooting didn’t happen at school.

Hector, with about 475 residents, is 90 miles northwest of Little Rock.

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