18 Wayne County students charged with felonies in senior prank

This sign at Wayne County High School was allegedly defaced during a senior prank that resulted in felony charges against 18 students.
This sign at Wayne County High School was allegedly defaced during a senior prank that resulted in felony charges against 18 students. WKYT-TV

Eighteen felony arrest warrants have been issued for Wayne County High School students — apparently graduating seniors — “after a prank went too far,” according to a post on the Wayne County sheriff’s Facebook page.

Sheriff Tim Catron and prosecutors were not at their offices Friday afternoon and did not return telephone calls.

But the sheriff’s social media post said the office’s School Resource Deputy Adam Dodson obtained 15 arrest warrants for felony first-degree criminal mischief for the students who are 18. The same charges were placed against three juveniles. The charges followed an investigation into reports that Wayne County High School in Monticello was damaged in excess of $1,000 on May 26.

Wayne County High School Principal Justin Alley said school officials didn’t file the charges. He wouldn’t comment on whether he thought felony charges should have been filed.

But he said he got an estimate Friday from a cleaning company that confirmed the $1,000 in damages.

Alley said a marble sign, bought by several classes in the 1970s, was written on, and the graffiti couldn’t be removed without fear of damaging the sign. He said a flagpole was written on, and that graffiti also couldn’t be removed without further damage.

“Every window within reach was written on,” Alley said. “It was a pretty large scope.”

Trees were toilet-papered, he said. The principal said the vandalism occurred the night before the last day of school.

Zola Gearding told the Herald-Leader that a warrant was issued for her daughter’s arrest. “She was taken to jail and fingerprinted and they gave her a court date. It was traumatizing. She’s got an academic scholarship to EKU (Eastern Kentucky University). Never been in trouble. A felony charge could ruin that for her.”

“I’m not trying to condone senior pranks. Nor am I trying to condone someone taking sidewalk chalk and window marker and painting up a place,” Gearding said. But the punishment should fit the crime, she said.

An arrest citation for one of the students, provided to the Herald-Leader by WKYT-TV, which first reported the incident, said students were involved in defacing the high school and that they “participated in a prank” that led to the criminal mischief charge.

In Kentucky, first-degree criminal mischief means intentionally or wantonly defacing, destroying or damaging any property and causing damage of $1,000 or more.

The charge is a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison.

Gearding said she went to the school on Friday, and a sign that was damaged could easily be cleaned up with a cleaning product.

“Somebody needs to be the voice for these kids,” she said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears