A longtime custodian is accused of leaving a threatening message at Harwood Union High School: “I am going to kill you all.”
Dick Peck, 51, of Duxbury faces misdemeanor charges of public false alarm and disorderly conduct. Authorities say surveillance footage contradicted Peck’s account that he discovered a message written by someone else.
In fact, authorities allege, he wrote it.
According to Vermont State Police affidavit filed in Barre criminal court, Peck told school officials he discovered the message written in soap across two mirrors in the boys’ restroom near the Harwood science classrooms after school on Dec. 4.
With the aid of video shot from a camera pointing directly at the bathroom, police compiled a list of 52 students and adults who had used the restroom in the hours preceding the discovery.
On Dec. 5, police began interviewing everyone seen entering the restroom.
“Dozens of students and staff members were interviewed and none of them recalled seeing any writing on the mirrors in the bathroom,” wrote Detective Trooper James Vooris in his affidavit. “A number of students and staff did recall seeing soap on the mirror, but advised they did not see any form of writing — just that there was soap on the mirror.”
Later the same day, police interviewed Peck, who lives 3 miles from the school and has been a custodian at the high school for about 10 years, according to his arrest report. Peck told police he discovered the writing after he had been cleaning the restroom for about 20 minutes, the affidavit states.
However, video shows Peck entering the restroom twice on the afternoon of Dec. 4 — once for 1 minute and again for two minutes, and in neither case was he carrying cleaning supplies, police said.
When confronted with the inconsistency, Peck admitted writing at least part of the message himself, the affidavit states.
According to the police report, Peck said the words “I go kill you” were written in soap on the mirror, and he added additional words to form the message.
Vooris, the investigating officer, asked Peck why he did it.
“I have no clue,” Peck said, according to the affidavit. “They never take anything serious around here. You know you go tell them things and they don’t take things serious around this school. They don’t listen to the custodians. They act like we’re stupid.”
Peck was scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 6 in Barre criminal court, but at the time of arraignment, the court was informed that he was hospitalized at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. It is unclear why Peck was hospitalized.
According to the affidavit, Peck told Washington County Mental Health that he owns multiple guns.
On Saturday, police removed guns from Peck’s home in accordance with a new law that prevents Peck — because of the nature of his charges — from possessing guns for up to six months, according to an official at the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The official did not know when Peck will be arraigned. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 12.
The incident had a significant impact on attendance at Harwood.
On the evening of Dec. 4, Harwood Superintendent Brigid Nease sent an email to parents, alerting them of the message. On Dec. 5, 123 students were absent from the high school, compared to 28 absences on Dec. 3, according to affidavits.
The effect was also felt 5 miles away at Crossett Brook Middle School, where 26 students were absent Dec. 5, compared to five absences on Dec. 3.
Nease did not respond to an interview request for this report; she insists on communicating with the press only by email.