Custodian charged in school threat a no-show in court

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) The judge and prosecutors were there but Dick Peck was a no-show in Washington County Court Thursday afternoon. He was at the Central Vermont Medical Center receiving treatment.

Deputy State's Attoreny Traci Leibowitz didn't know why the 51-year-old high school custodian was hospitalized. But his absence meant no plea to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and false public alarm. Both stem from a message reading "I am going to kill you all" that he allegedly scrawled in soap on a bathroom mirror at Harwood Union High School earlier this week.

"There doesn't appear to be any sort of specific person it was directed at. Not really clear why it happened," Leibowitz said.

While Peck may not have been there to face charges, court paperwork that was filed Thursday detailed why he allegedly told police he did it.

In the police report, we learned surveillance video from inside the school hallways helped investigators narrow down who was in the area at the time and ultimately led them to Peck. Paperwork shows at first he denied it to police. Then he admitted he scrawled part of it but maintained the word "kill" was already there. He claimed he added more so that the school would "start taking things serious around this place."

We also learned from paperwork that Peck has access to a number of firearms which prompted prosecutors to take a rare action.

"The state is pursuing an extreme risk protection order with regards to this defendent," Leibowitz said.

The extreme risk protection order is a new tool for prosecutors-- part of the new gun laws that went into effect earlier this year. It allows prosecutors to ask a judge to prohibit possession or purchase of firearms and other deadly weapons for up to six months if a suspect is deemed a serious threat to either themselves or the public. Leibowitz says the only other time she knows of it being used was in another school threat case-- in Fair Haven against suspect Jack Sawyer. It's a tool she says her office is glad to have.

"We don't want to leave any stone unturned," she said. "If there's a protection that we can pursue, we are going to pursue that."

The threat took a toll on school attendance. Court papers show the day after the threat, 123 students were absent from Harwood Union High School compared to just 28 the day before.