Investigators deliver evidence to GBI lab in case that sent 28 South Fulton kids to hospital

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The GBI confirms it has received evidence tied to a Valentine’s Day outbreak that hospitalized 28 South Fulton County middle school students.

The delivery of candy and treats was made Tuesday afternoon, five days after the kids reported eating a variety of snacks, including of lollipops and Rice Krispy treats passed out by several students at Sandtown Middle School.

Two parents who spoke to Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr said doctors told them their children's symptoms were consistent with synthetic drug use, but the drugs were not traceable in their system by the time their blood and urine were tested at the hospital Thursday evening.

“They said it was PCP -- a trace of PCP and liquid marijuana,” said Baratta Duffy, whose seventh-grade granddaughter was hospitalized after falling on the floor with a stomach ache and hallucinating. “They said that specifically, but it wasn’t traceable. Once they did the drug test, it wasn’t traceable at that time. They said it was some of the symptoms."


The GBI confirms it will take several days to conduct their test and deliver the results to Fulton County Schools police. Parents told Carr they wanted to know what took so long to deliver the samples.

“I think it’s ridiculous because it should have been there Friday -- the next day or that same night,” Duffy said. “I’m trying to figure out, why would you hold it? If any evidence was on there, it could be gone.”

A Fulton County spokeswoman told Carr on Tuesday that the evidence delivery timeline tied back to a number of factors. Investigators did not have all of  the evidence for testing on the day the kids were sick, because they were still trying to figure out what needed to be collected. Dozens of interviews, including those conducted over the brief holiday break, led to more evidence.

A complete package was not ready to deliver to the GBI until Tuesday afternoon, the spokeswoman said.

An earlier news release Monday cited preserving the integrity of the investigation through evidence “chain-of-custody.”

Incident reports released by the Fulton County School system on Tuesday describe how some of the suspected Rice Krispy treats were in a homemade container, but investigators said students “would/could” not tell them who’d brought the containers to school.

One mother told an investigator she could provide a receipt for lollipops she purchased at a Fayetteville Walmart.

Students displayed a variety of symptoms including red, watery eyes, hallucinations, frantic crying and stomach aches, according to the incident report. Duffy said some kids believed they were seeing their parents and grandparents in the faces of school administrators as they were hallucinating.

Another parent, who did not want to be identified, said others believed they were “driving through the hallways” of the school.

Carr learned that some of the victims parents were planning to meet with School Board President Linda Bryant on Tuesday night at Gullatt Elementary School.

Duffy said she was hoping for more details about what school officials have found so far.

“How in the world did they get a hold of that mess?” Duffy asked. “That’s what I’m concerned about . How would they get a hold of….why would they be so evil? I’m not understanding that part.”

In a statement, Fulton County schools noted the seriousness of their investigation.

“We want to be very clear that Fulton County Schools will follow through to the full extent of the law as well as with the most severe consequences allowed under our Student Disciplinary Code of Conduct should the investigation indicate foul play,” the statement read.

“Given the suspicions and the resulting conversation in the community about edibles – or food/candy containing drugs – the school system is preparing a campaign that educates students on the dangers of taking or eating foods that come from an unknown source.”

All 28 students have been released from the hospital, the system noted. Duffy said she may have to take her granddaughter back to a doctor because she is still in pain after taking prescriptions for several days.

Fulton County said they will continue interviews and offer counseling and assistance to kids who return to school Wednesday.