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Elbert County teen gets 6 years in prison for Colorado school shooting plot

William ‘Lily’ Whitworth, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in November for threatening shootings at three schools in Colorado Springs.
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Posted at 2:53 PM, Jan 30, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 17:24:46-05

ELBERT COUNTY, Colo – A former District 20 student was sentenced to a six-year sentence in Colorado’s Department of Corrections Tuesday after pleading guilty in a plot to target several schools in Elbert County.

William ‘Lily’ Whitworth, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on November 6, 2023 for threatening school shootings at three schools in Colorado Springs Academy District 20, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Whitworth was credited with 306 days already served in jail since being arrested in March 2023.

A January 19 sentencing hearing was continued until Tuesday after Judge Theresa Slade cited confusion around sentencing guidelines from community corrections.

Whitworth, who identifies as ‘Lily’, is a former District 20 student.

An arrest affidavit revealed the Elbert County Sheriff's Office was called to a home in an unincorporated area after a family member in the homemade claims Whitworth had made multiple references to school shootings and even allegedly threatened to shoot up a school.

“While on scene, deputies noticed a dry erase board in the home which appeared to have a labeled floor plan of a school and a notebook with some additional drawings and floor plans,” the DA’s office said in a release.

Those notebook drawings, which included floor plan sketches and text messages between Lily and her mother were referenced during the sentencing hearing in which Whitworth had drafted plans to commit a shooting at Timberview Middle School, Prairie Hills Elementary and Pine Creek High School.

Whitworth admitted to planning the attack and told the court in January she was “deeply remorseful” for her actions.

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While defense presented a picture of an abusive homelife and sought probation with conditions, the prosecutor urged Judge Slade to sentence Whitworth to further jail time in an effort to deter others threatening to commit school shootings.

During victim impact statements in January’s hearing, an attorney representing the district urged the court to consider the emotional toll the threats took on students, teachers and the school community.

“This is not a victimless offense,” said Tonya Thompson, General Counsel at Academy School District 20, who added the threats placed a heavy financial strain on school resources.“They were all suddenly forced to grapple with the fear of losing a loved one where they should feel safe and secure,” said Thompson.

Christopher Whitworh, Lily’s father who lives in Texas, urged the court earlier in January to release Lily on probation so she could return with him where the family had a support system.“I know Lily is capable of some amazing things if just given a chance,” he pleaded with the court. “Lily has seen a host of people back in Texas waiting to help them, love them, support them, show them something better to come home to.”

The DA’s office had said Whitworth allegedly told jail staff if released on bond, they would attempt to carry out the original mass shooting plan.

Judge Slade considered for Whitworth probation and residential treatment programs, in Colorado and in Texas, but ultimately imposed further incarceration.

"The ripple effect on the community is pretty big," Judge Slade said while handing down the sentence. "If I could make it so this would never happen again, I would do it."

Judge Slade could have sentenced Whitworth to up to 16 years. "This was an attempt, a plan — a clear plan," added Slade. "Pretty significant steps you took to execute this. Nobody was physically hurt, nobody was killed. But people were hurt and people were scared and people are still scared."

Whitworth faced additional charges, including attempted murder but accepted a plea agreement in November 2023 pleading guilty to second-degree assault, which is a class 4 felony.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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