Accused of Replacing Apple Juice With Urine, Boys Face Felony Charges
Incident was said to have taken place at a Palm Harbor high school.
By JOSE CARDENAS
St. Petersburg Times
PALM HARBOR - Without question, nobody deserves what happened to one teen at Palm Harbor University High School last month.
But, of all people, it turned out to be a shy freshman honors student who drank from an apple juice bottle filled with urine - a criminal prank by two other boys, officials say.
"He's a good kid," said the victim's mother, Wendy Cason. "He didn't deserve that."
Two freshmen, both 15, stole the bottle from a campus vending machine in early April, poured out the juice, replaced it with their waste and put the bottle back into the machine, officials say.
On Thursday, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies arrested the two boys at the high school.
Poisoning food or water with intent to injure or cause bodily harm.
"This is obviously a serious crime," said sheriff's Sgt. Jim Bordner.
The St. Petersburg Times is not identifying the 15-year-old victim or the two other teens, both from Palm Harbor, who were taken to the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center.
The victim plays Little League, works as a batboy for the Clearwater Threshers and is enrolled in the medical magnet program at Palm Harbor High.
"He's very giving," said Cason. "His teachers describe him as a leader in his class."
On April 9, he bought what he thought was a bottle of apple juice from a Pepsi vending machine. On the ride home on his school bus, he took a sip. He noticed the foul taste and odor. He told Cason about it when he got home.
Cason is an emergency medical services supervisor for the city of Clearwater. She called the Sheriff's Office.
"My biggest concern was infectious disease testing," said Cason, 43. "I know the potential of body fluids spreading disease."
The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Agriculture tested the liquid and determined it was urine.
The urine was sterile, said Bordner.
Her son did not get sick, Cason said.
In the meantime, deputies received tips about the teens who were charged with tampering with the bottle.
On Thursday, deputies asked the boys about their involvement. They admitted the crime, the deputies said.
In early April, the boys exploited a mechanical glitch in the vending machine to reach a bottle of Dole apple juice, according to deputies.
They emptied it, refilled it and put it back, deputies said. They waited to see whether anyone would buy it. When no one did, they left the area, leaving the tainted bottle in the machine. Then the unsuspecting freshman came along.
The vendor and the deputies determined that no other items had been unsealed, Bordner said.
Pinellas County school district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said Friday that the vending machine had been removed.
Zahn said she could not discuss the enrollment status of the two boys who were arrested because of privacy restrictions.
"We view this as serious misconduct," said Zahn. "Acts of this nature will result in discipline that can include suspension, reassignment and expulsion."
At their home, Cason and her son joked briefly about the "gross" experience.
"We are not looking to be vindictive," said Cason. "The truth is they went to jail. That probably left an impact. I don't know that this is worth ruining two boys' lives."