CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. - Two teens who pleaded guilty in a plot to blow up their school and kill their classmates will serve at least 20 years in prison, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Alfred Dupree, 19, and Veronica McCurley, 18, faced 90 years in prison after plotting to blow up Etowah High School in 2017. They were sentenced to 40 years each in prison and will be required to serve at least 20.
Dupree and McCurley pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy to commit murder, among other felony charges, before any trial last week.
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant was in the courtroom in Canton as testimony unfolded.
The judge said she believed in rehabilitation, but also had to keep the community safe.
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"The court must take into account the safety of the community knowing that any release without you being treated puts everybody at risk," the judge said as she handed down the sentence.
The former students both apologized for their planned attack. It was the first time either defendant showed emotion over the course of their sentencing hearing, which spanned three days.
"I need help," Dupree said in a prepared statement. "I want to be treated for the problems I have. I understand I need punishment, but at some point, I do want to move forward with my life, not in this community, because of the pain and fear I've given them."
Over the course of three days, prosecutors detailed the contents of several journal entries written by Dupree and McCurley, with blood-chilling details of their violent attack plans and kill list of several students and a teacher.
In court, Dupree also apologized to his family and each of the victim's on his intended kill list.
Psychologists for both defendants described how they each suffered from mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and challenging home lives.
"When writing and doing these things, I was in a much darker place with my self-hatred," Dupree said.
"The whole situation was childish and irrational," McCurly said. "It was not something that I understand I did what I did."
Dupree and McCurley's families didn't want to speak to media after the sentencing.
Prosecutors and the defense had every different reactions to the long sentence.
Cherokee County prosecutor Rachelle Carnesalle was pleased.
"It's important for this community to keep the community safe, and so we thank the judge for her sentence," Carnesalle said. "I hope that the community can take a breath, recognize that our law enforcement just did an outstanding job."
Carnesalle said the long sentence sends a strong message.
"At any given time, we could have a tragedy at any school, and in this jurisdiction, it will not be tolerated," Carnesalle said.
McCurley's attorney said he's surprised and disappointed with the sentence, and he hoped for less prison time so his client could get access sooner to mental health care that isn't available in the prison system.
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