A 16-year-old Windham boy accused of sending threatening emails that shut down eight regional schools this week was ordered by a judge Thursday to remain in custody while he waits to be arraigned on terrorizing charges.

Justin Woodbury did not speak during a court appearance in Portland and key investigative records remained sealed, leaving many questions about the nature of the threats that kept 3,300 Windham and Raymond students out of class for three days and unsettled children and parents in the two communities. Outside the court, two conflicting portraits emerged of the computer-savvy teenager.

Police have described the email messages received by two Windham school administrators as serious threats that included references to weapons and expressions of anger, and that were sent in a way to make them hard to trace. They also have said that a firearm was seized in the family’s Windham home, indicating the potential for danger to students.

John Woodbury, Justin’s father, said in an earlier interview that police came to their home Tuesday night and took the elder Woodbury’s hunting rifle.

“I have guns, but they are locked in a safe,” he said.

Woodbury’s parents have described him as a good kid who was quiet and most comfortable at his computer. His defense attorney said Thursday that the teen had never been in formal trouble or charged with a crime, and is nervous about being held at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

“My son is a good boy,” Woodbury’s mother, Tina Woodbury, said Thursday, sometimes weeping as she spoke. “He made a bad choice, but he’s not the monster they’re making him out to be. None of those children were ever in danger.”

Justin Woodbury was a student in the Windham-Raymond school district until last year. His mother said he was a freshman at Windham High School for a while before he enrolled at the Baxter Academy for Science and Technology, a Portland charter school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

Tina Woodbury said she has read negative and threatening comments posted online about her son, and she denied that he left Windham schools because of discipline problems. She said he switched schools to focus on computers and technology.

She said she believes others played a role in the email threats and that she suspects they were sent as part of a bet among her son’s friends. She described her son as a quiet loner who “doesn’t go out” and is “connected to his computer.” She brought him to a counselor once, she said, but the counselor said there was nothing wrong with her son’s behavior.

“I love my son with all my heart,” she said, her words dissolving into sobs. “I feel so bad for my boy.”

The two threatening email messages were received Monday morning by the principal of Windham Middle School and Regional School Unit 14 Superintendent Sanford Prince, who described the contents as “alarming.”

Windham school officials would not answer any questions about Woodbury on Thursday, saying student information is confidential.

Michele LaForge, Baxter’s head of school, also said she would not provide information about Woodbury. However, she did acknowledge that he belonged to the school’s student tech team last year.

The team, which no longer exists, was a group of eight to 10 computer-savvy students who assisted Baxter’s information technology director as the school was setting up computers during its first academic year. The tech team helped install software and enter serial numbers, for example, she said.

She discussed Woodbury’s role on the tech team after Baxter Academy shut down its Internet and phone service Thursday to run security checks on its computer network. LaForge maintained that Woodbury and the tech team did not work directly on the network and were always supervised. The security check, she said, was done to make sure the system hasn’t been compromised.

“We felt it was prudent for the sake of caution to take a look at our network and make sure everyone’s information was safe,” LaForge said.

Woodbury’s appearance Thursday afternoon for a juvenile detention hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland shed little light on the boy and the charges he faces.

Judge Keith Powers ruled that he will continue to be held at Long Creek until his arraignment Jan. 8.

Woodbury walked into the courtroom with his head down and hands in his pants pockets. He did not appear to look at his parents and aunt in the spectator section. Woodbury said nothing during the brief hearing as he stood beside attorney Mark Peltier, who was temporarily appointed by the court to represent him.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault and Peltier told the judge that they agreed that Woodbury should remain at Long Creek until Woodbury’s parents hire a lawyer for their son’s defense.

“I think this makes sense,” Peltier told the judge.

Prosecutors are now charging Woodbury with two counts of felony terrorizing, corresponding with the two threatening emails. Windham police had initially charged him with eight counts to correspond with the eight schools in Windham and Raymond that each closed for three days after the threats.

No new details were released in court about what Woodbury is accused of threatening to do.

Although a juvenile, Woodbury’s name was made public in court because of the seriousness of the charges. However, evidentiary filings that sometimes provide information about cases were sealed because they involve a juvenile. Both attorneys declined afterward to release further information about the accusations

“We still know very little about this young man. In due course, details will be evaluated and made available in the court,” Thibeault said outside the courthouse after the hearing. “I think the police did the right thing. I think the schools did the right thing.”

Peltier said he met with Woodbury’s parents both before and after the hearing. Peltier said he also met with Woodbury twice to talk about the accusations against him and found him to be “a bright kid” and “a normal kid.”

“My understanding is he’s never been in formal trouble before. He’s never been charged with a juvenile crime,” Peltier said. “He’s never been to Long Creek. So he’s nervous. But he’s holding up pretty well, all things considered.”

Much of the court hearing focused on whether Woodbury’s parents could afford an attorney to represent him. As the owners of a private construction business, they have too many assets to qualify for a court-appointed attorney. But, they said, they do not have enough money immediately available to hire an attorney.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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Twitter: @scottddolan

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:


Twitter: @KelleyBouchard