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Questions still surround STM poisoning investigation

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Posted at 10:23 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 23:23:55-04

There are still questions about the poisoning investigation at St. Thomas More High School.

A student is accused of putting a chemical in another student's drink. The alleged incident happened last Thursday and the student was arrested four days later on a charge of aggravated battery.

Tonight, this case is bringing to light a new law about juveniles and violent crime.

When the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office sent out its news release, they referred to the suspect as a juvenile. We've learned the suspect is 17-years-old and accused of a violent crime. As the law stands right now, that means he's considered an adult, but that will soon change.

Historically 17-year-olds are treated as adults in Louisiana courts, but the state has passed the 'Raise the Age Law.'

Criminal Defense Attorney Tommy Guilbeau said, "We finally came into the 21st century here in Louisiana and we're treating 17-year-olds as non-adults. You have to reach the age of 18-years-old."

The law is being phased in.

Right now, for non-violent crimes, 17-year-olds are considered juveniles. For violent offenses, like aggravated battery in the STM case, 17-year-olds won't be considered juveniles until July of next year.

We reached out to the Sheriff's Office on why the suspect is being referred to as a juvenile.

A spokesperson said they were being "cautious not to violate the rights of a minor." KATC Investigates has found at least one other case where a 17-year-old was arrested for another violent crime, attempted murder in that case, and the Sheriff's Office sent out his name and mug shot.

"You have to use common sense," Guilbeau said. "This is a teenager in a high school and it's a tragic thing that happened. Good people are involved on all sides, but he's a juvenile and he has the right to be treated as a juvenile."

Guilbeau said the new law is a step in the right direction.

"Louisiana has been the harshest penal laws in the United States of America. America imprisons more people than any place in the world. We still have a lot to go, but we're making strides to treating 17-year-olds like juveniles."

The Sheriff's Office says the investigation has now been referred to the District Attorney's Office.