Understanding the Jonesboro Duo

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JONESBORO: Inside the juvenile section of Craighead County jail on Thursday, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson studied his Bible and 11-year-old Andrew Golden cried for his mother. Outside, the Jonesboro school-shooting suspects’ families began the impossible task of interpreting their children’s actions for the media. “I don’t have an explanation for any of this,” said Scott Johnson, the divorced father of Mitchell who now lives in Minnesota, on NBC Nightly News. But he added: “My son is not a monster.”

The Golden family disagree. They blame Mitchell for dragging Andrew into a vengeful plot that culminated in Tuesday’s shooting at the Arkansas school. The Johnson family blame television. Neither can quite connect the children who loved bowling, computer games and music with the camouflaged riflemen who hid in the woods and then gunned down four of their classmates and one of their teachers in cold blood.

Westside Middle School is closed again Friday, as what was supposed to be a teacher-training day is devoted to the funerals of two of the 12-year-old victims of the attack. On Thursday, the pupils wrote a letter to Monty Woodard, Mitchell’s stepbrother, saying they still liked him and wanted him to return to school. But his father Terry refused. “I’ve been around this town,” he said. “These people don’t forgive.”