By Liz Shepherd
ROCHESTER — Three witnesses testified in the first day of a jury trial for a teen who allegedly plotted a Columbine-type massacre in Fulton County.
John Lawrence Schultz IV, 19, 630 W. Sixth St., Rochester, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, a level 2 felony; and intimidation and possession of methamphetamine, both level 6 felonies.
If found guilty on the Level 2 felony, Schultz could receive 10 to 30 years in prison.
Schultz’s attorneys are Joseph Bauer and Paul Namie, Highland. Representing the state are Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Arndt.
Schultz’s co-defendant, Donald Victor Robin Jr., 18, was sentenced in March to 17 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. Nine years of Robin’s sentence was suspended. Robin is incarcerated in the Westville Correctional Facility with an estimated release date of 2026.
As part of his plea agreement, Robin has agreed to cooperate with the state on testifying during Schultz’s jury trial.
According to court documents, Rochester Police were notified by an informant on July 13, 2020, that “Johnny Schultz IV and some friends are planning a school massacre.”
Schultz allegedly conspired alongside Robin to commit a school shooting at Rochester High School and a school in the Caston School Corp.
The informant visited the suspects several times and saw them smoking methamphetamine during their conversations. They also said Schultz and Robin were getting ready for the massacre, saying “They are going to kill as many as they can and kill themselves just like Columbine.”
The Columbine shooting on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., happened after Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris went on a shooting spree. The two teens killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others before they both committed suicide.
Dating back to May 12, 2020, Schultz posted several veiled threats on his two Facebook pages, including a photo collage with an image of Columbine shooter Eric Harris.
Officers also found information that on July 15, 2020, Schultz and Robin changed their names on Facebook messenger to Columbine massacre references. Pictures of tattoos on Schultz and Robin were also discovered. The tattoo on Schultz’s arm is of a shotgun very similar to one Harris used in the Columbine shooting.
Jury selection took place July 23 in Miami County Circuit Court. At that time, 12 jurors and two alternates were selected; however, one juror was excused prior to court proceedings beginning in Fulton Circuit Court on Monday, July 26, for a personal matter. One of the alternates took the excused juror’s place.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the jury trial is being live streamed. Jury members are also socially distanced in the courtroom’s gallery while media representatives are seated in the jury box during the trial.
In his opening statement, Marrs told the jury that the evidence and facts in the case speak for themselves. He elaborated on the types of physical evidence the state would present in its case, including clothing, social media posts and pictures.
“These two (Schultz and Robin) were friends and they started doing drugs,” said Marrs. “That use became substantial and they became infatuated with Columbine. The defendants were arrested July 31, 2020. School would have started Aug. 4. If law enforcement waited to act, we would have had a Columbine here. The evidence will show both conspired with each other to commit murder. When talk turns to action and you start looking at how to get a gun or propane tanks, you’ve taken further steps than just talk.”
Bauer emphasized to the jury the importance of scrutinizing every piece of evidence the state presents in its case while asking them to hold the government to their burden of proof.
“The state refers to (Schultz) as the defendant,” said Bauer. “We (the defense attorneys) refer to him as Johnny. That’s what he likes to go by. They (the state) call him the defendant to isolate him, dehumanize him, cast guilt on him. But he has the presumption of innocence. Keep that in mind when you hear the evidence. That presumption stays with him through the whole trial.”
Aside from analyzing evidence, Bauer also asked the jury to question everything the state presents in its case, including witness testimony and physical evidence of “school shooter” outfits.
“Hold the government to its burden in the interest of truth and justice,” said Bauer. “Force the state to answer all your questions.”
Following opening statements, the state began its case by calling Rochester Police Lt. Detective Matt Campbell.
Campbell said police received a call from somebody who said Schultz and Robin were going to commit a school shooting. Exhibits from Schultz’s and Robin’s public Facebook profiles were submitted as evidence, including a photo collage with Columbine shooter Eric Harris at the top of it and a post with the lyrics from “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. Campbell then filed paperwork for search warrants on Schultz’s and Robin’s social media profiles.
“I actually got chills reading some of it,” Campbell said about the information he obtained.
The state submitted dozens of exhibits in its case while questioning Campbell, including photos of Schultz and Robin together, Robin wearing a trench coat and a post that Schultz shared with a quote from Dylan Klebold. Photos from Robin’s and Schultz’s homes and rooms were also admitted. In pictures of Schultz’s room, several names and quotes were written on the walls; many of the quotes referenced the Columbine shooting. One quote on the wall read “Columbine will fall because of us.” Crude pictures of guns were also in Schultz’s room.
Several hats from Schultz’s and Robin’s homes, as well as trench coats, a tactical belt and a painted air tank, were all submitted as physical evidence. The hats had many words and abbreviations scrawled on them such as “NBK” (Natural Born Killers), “REB” and “Wrath,” the latter two being Columbine references.
In cross-examination, Bauer asked Campbell if there were any pictures of Schultz shooting or holding guns, or if there were photos of Schultz wearing a trench coat. Campbell said there was not. Bauer also asked if Schultz was in possession of any guns. Campbell again answered in the negative.
Campbell also said it would be “hard to tell who wrote what” in regards to the writings on Schultz’s bedroom walls. Bauer questioned Campbell on not interviewing those who reacted to Schultz’s social media posts or people that Schultz himself said had information on the case. Campbell said he interviewed Schultz and Robin, as well as some of their family members. He also interviewed Jared Carter, one of Schultz’s friends, about the incident.
Bauer also asked why the informant, later identified as one of Schultz’s relatives, was not brought by the state to testify.
In redirect, the state said the informant ultimately became non-cooperative in assisting with the case and was being threatened by Schultz’s family.
The state’s second witness was Carter, who said he was Schultz’s best friend and “like a brother.”
Carter said he frequently spent time with Schultz but that Robin was more of an acquaintance. Carter recalled a time where he, Schultz and Robin went to a pawn shop in Logansport. At that time, Carter sold a couple of electronic items and also browsed the store. In its case, the state is alleging that Schultz and Robin had plans to obtain a firearm from a pawn shop.
Carter said he had only been to a pawn shop with Schultz and Robin once, but that his memory of the instance was hazy due to being under the influence at the time.
The state’s final witness of the day was Mitch Kajzer, director of the cyber crimes unit for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney in St. Joseph County. His unit completed digital forensics on eight pieces of evidence, including three cellphones that belonged to Schultz, as well as a phone, computer and three hard drives belonging to Robin.
He elaborated on how keyword matches were used to help obtain information on the case. Through Robin’s electronic devices, the word “Columbine” had 3,087 matches; “bomb” had 4,533 matches and “shooting” had 2,080. Kajzer noted that the keyword matches do include each instance that the specific word would appear in a link, photo or webpage.
A juror asked if the cyber analysis found any similar keyword searches on Schultz’s cellphones. Kajzer said it did not. When asked what specifically was found on Schultz’s cellphones, Kajzer said there was evidence pertaining to Schultz’s alleged drug use.
Schultz’s trial will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 27, in Fulton Circuit Court, with the state continuing to present further evidence.