A 19-year-old suspected of killing a former high school classmate in Frederick, Maryland, had an explosive device at home and may have been plotting a mass shooting, the county sheriff said Thursday.
Joshua David Eckenrode, of Thurmont, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Curtis Mason Smith, who also was 19.
Officials revealed new details Thursday and say Eckenrode may have planned violence far worse.
Court documents say Smith met up with Eckenrode to buy or trade guns. Smith’s former classmate then shot and killed him, and dumped his body in a car along a dirt road, officials say.
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“This was a senseless, needless tragedy. There’s no reason on earth why one 19-year-old should take the life of another,” Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said at a news conference.
Smith’s loved ones stood behind Jenkins and cried as he spoke.
The possible motive for the crime is still unclear. Court documents say Eckenrode told a friend “a deal went bad.”
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Jenkins said that when deputies searched Eckenrode’s home above a convenience store, they found an improvised explosive device, a plan of action detailing guns, and evidence he may have been planning a mass shooting.
“The notes we found alluded to that something was going to happen, and he probably wouldn’t survive,” the sheriff said.
An employee at the convenience store said she was shocked to learn Eckenrode allegedly kept an explosive device right above where she works.
Smith’s father, Curtis Smith, called his son a hero and said he may have prevented a larger attack by Eckenrode.
“He stopped this. He saved this community from something crazy happening. This could be a much bigger thing,” he said.
Eckenrode was charged with first-degree murder and possession of explosives. He is being held without bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney.
The sheriff said Eckenrode had minor encounters with the law previously, but there was no indication of any plot for a mass shooting.
Smith always had a smile on his face and planned to become an HVAC technician, his family said.
“He was a great kid and he always knew the right things to do. He always stood up for what was right,” his father said.