CARO — A Tuscola County Probate Court judge said a Mayville High School student “needs to be detained” until the level of threat he poses to public safety is determined.
Through his attorney, Dakota Spencer, 16, Fostoria, stood mute Thursday to charges that include two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, and two counts related to possessing weapons in a school zone. He also faces a charge related to possession of marijuana.
Spencer, restrained with chains, was brought through the front door of the Tuscola County Courthouse in Caro and taken to Probate Judge Nancy Thane’s courtroom for a preliminary examination — a hearing to determine if enough evidence exists to hold a defendant for trial.
Thane ordered Spencer remain detained in a juvenile facility until at least April 19, when a pretrial conference is scheduled.
Tuscola County Prosecutors argued that were it not for school officials and law enforcement working together, Spencer’s alleged actions could have led to a “very serious tragedy…in a small community.”“We can’t tolerate that threat in our community,” said Eric Hinojosa, assistant prosecutor, Tuscola County, during the preliminary examination.
The Advertiser was the first to report the arrest that occurred on March 24.
Additional details of what allegedly occurred were discussed during Thursday’s preliminary exam.
Hinojosa said Spencer allegedly said he was “going to kill a middle school student” on a school bus on March 23.
The next day, the driver (who has not been named) allegedly relayed the information to Mayville district administration who searched Spencer’s locker and – in his backpack – found a loaded .22 caliber pistol, two magazines (ammunition), three hunting knives, three pocket knives, a kitchen knife, whiskey, and marijuana. Spencer was then arrested.
An adult convicted of the alleged felonies could get up to five years in prison, said Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene, while a juvenile could get a lesser sentence at a juvenile detention center.
Hinojosa asked the court to keep Spencer detained due to the seriousness of the charges and to not “endanger public safety.”
Duane Burgess, Spencer’s attorney, asked the court to release Spencer from the detention facility into custody of his family and with a set of conditions that would ensure public safety.
Burgess asked the court to consider Dakota Spencer’s “best interests” and said that not being in detention would allow the teen to immediately get into counseling and online schooling since he “won’t be going back to Mayville schools.”
Spencer’s father, mother, and four grandparents attended the preliminary hearing.
Spencer’s mother, April Spencer, was visibly upset throughout the hearing – and at one point needed physical assistance while standing.
Brian Spencer, Dakota Spencer’s father, asked the court to release his son into his custody and told the court the teen would be under surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Brian Spencer identified himself as being self-employed and said this is his “busiest time of year” and that if his son were released into his custody, Dakota Spencer would work for him and “not be sitting around on his butt.”
Judge Thane, when ruling, acknowledged Dakota Spencer’s support system, but said he “needs to be detained” until the court can sufficiently reconsider releasing him “with necessary safeguards in place.”
Thane also noted that releasing Spencer Thursday and into a situation where he would be working “out in public” with his father was something she wouldn’t do given the allegations from prosecutors that he poses a threat to public safety.
Thane set the pretrial conference for April 19.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org