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Thurmont Middle School teacher guilty

(4/5)  Thurmont Middle School teacher Michelle Dohm was found guilty on Monday April 2 on five counts of making false bomb threats to five different students at the school.

“The defendant is in fact responsible for the creation and delivery of these five documents,” Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie Stevenson Solt said after hearing a statement of facts read into the record. The documents were essentially bomb threats sent to five different students in Thurmont.

Solt presided over the trial, which lasted less than an hour. Dohm pled not guilty to an agreed-upon statement of facts. Because of this, Dohm gave up her right to a jury trial and the right to hear and call witnesses. On the prosecution side, the state agreed to ask for no more than 18 months of prison time in the Frederick County Detention Center, though each count carried a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or $10,000.

A soft-spoken Dohm took the witness stand to answer questions from Solt to make sure she understood the implications of the agreement she had made.

Dohm, a sixth-grade teacher at Thurmont Middle School who has been on unpaid administrative leave since Nov. 2005, was indicted in December 2005 on charges stemming from October incidents where she sent letters to students that intimated a bomb threat and death threats against the students. Many of the letters used the phrase, “Tick tock. Tick tock. Is it a bomb or is it a clock?”

States Attorney Charlie Smith read the statement of facts into the record. It detailed the progression of the investigation and the unfolding of the events.
It began in September 2005 with a sealed letter Dohm said a woman had asked her to give to the administration. The letter told the administration to check a Landon Routzahn’s locker for knives. Dohm could only give a vague description of the woman who asked her to deliver the note.

“To this day, this woman has never re-appeared at Thurmont Middle School nor has she been identified,” Smith said.

The tone of the letters escalated from terms like “suffer”, “bound and tied” and “shoot you” to the bomb intimations.

An additional incident in April 2006 was the basis of one of the five charges against Dohm. This incident came after Dohm had already been indicted four months earlier.
Forensic evidence that included microscopic examination of the stamps on the mailed threats and handwriting analysis linked Dohm to some of the letters and the letters to each other. Through the connections, Smith said, “it is more likely than not that the defendant prepared the note that was left in the boys’ bathroom in Thurmont Middle School on Nov. 21, 2005, as well as the note left on the Routzahn’s vehicle on Sept. 30, 2005. Consequently, it is more likely than not that the defendant prepared the notes that were delivered on Apr. 21, 2006 by U.S. Postal Service to both Dennis Tokar and Kenny Kober.”

Other circumstantial evidence linked Dohm to the situation, including knowing information she shouldn’t have known or being seen where letters appeared shortly before their appearance. In one instance, temporary printing files on Dohm’s school computer showed that some of the threatening letters had been printed from it on a day when there were no students in the school, but Dohm had been seen at her computer.

An April 2006 search and seizure of her home yielded the stamps that were connected to the ones used to mail letters to students and handwritten practice threats.

“I would wager to say the entire community is offended by what she did,” Smith said after the trial.

Dohm will be sentenced at a hearing on June 26. At that time, families of the victims are expected to make their wishes known. Dohm also has to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before then.

“The only thing that is really perplexing is why she did it,” Smith said. He added that the prosecution has some theories, which they will present at the sentencing hearing, but they are only theories. Dohm is the only one who knows her reasoning.

A timeline of events

  • Sept. 28, 2005 – Dohm delivers sealed letter from mystery woman urging a student’s locker to be checked for knives.
  • Sept. 30, 2005 - A student’s father finds a letter threatening his son on the windshield of his vehicle. The house is along Dohm’s regular walking route.
  • Oct. 14, 2005 - Threatening letters printed from Dohm’s school computer when no students were in the school but Dohm was seen at her computer.
  • Oct. 17, 2005 - Four students find the letters printed from Dohm’s computer in their lockers that reference bombs.
  • Nov. 1, 2, 2005 - Staff at TMS find additional threatening letters.
  • Nov. 3, 2005 - Dohm tells vice principal she received a call from a young boy saying “Tick tock tick tock” on Oct. 24.
  • Nov. 4, 2005 - When records are checked, no call was made and Dohm has dropped her cell phone service.
  • Nov. 16, 2005 - Dohm suspended from teaching.
  • Nov. 21, 2005 - A note threatening a bomb explosion is found in the boys’ bathroom.
  • Dec. 22, 2005 - First indictments handed down.
  • Mar. 31, 2006 - TMS student receives threatening letter in the mail.
  • Apr. 21, 2006 - Same student receives a second note in the mail. Another student also gets a threatening note. Police execute search and seizure of Dohm’s home.
  • Apr. 22, 2006 - Dohm contacts mother of student who received the day before and has knowledge that police hadn’t made public. Dohm also called postmaster to check on whether mail can be traced.
  • Apr. 2, 2007 - Dohm convicted.

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