Casper Schools, Church Community Rally For Youth In Wake Of Fatal Stabbing

Some young people in Casper are having a hard time dealing with the Sunday stabbing death of a 14-year-old at a local mall. Local schools and the church community are rallying to help counsel and support them.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

April 10, 20248 min read

The principal at Dean Morgan Middle School, where slain 14-year-old Bobby Maher attended, said counseling and support services have been ongoing this week following the stabbing incident at the Eastridge Mall on Sunday.
The principal at Dean Morgan Middle School, where slain 14-year-old Bobby Maher attended, said counseling and support services have been ongoing this week following the stabbing incident at the Eastridge Mall on Sunday. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — Helping students struggling with the sudden and violent death of a 14-year-old classmate has been a main focus at Dean Morgan Middle School this week.

The Casper community has been stunned and saddened since a Sunday confrontation at Eastridge Mall left Robert “Bobby” Maher Jr. fatally stabbed and two other teens facing adult first-degree murder and attempted-murder charges.

At the middle school where Maher attended, Principal Clay Cates said a priority has been to make sure counseling services are available for any of the 600 students at the school.

Cates said the two teens who have been charged with the murder of Maher were not students at the school.

“One of things that we do is we offer that if kids need any support, that they can come down to the office and visit with their principal or their counselors,” Cates said. “It started off pretty heavy, and then the numbers have gone down, but we are still actively working with some kids.”

Counselors from other Natrona County Schools have been at the school this week and teachers have been on “heightened alert” to spot students who may be struggling with the death of a young classmate.

“We’re continuing to be successful in helping kids through the trauma of this whether they were there, whether they weren’t, whether they heard about it,” Cates said. “Some kids said they saw videos, and so there is quite a few different angles that we try to help the kids with.”

Parents Calling

Parents also have called the school seeking assistance for children and have brought them down to the school for counseling, Cates said, adding that Dean Morgan Middle School continues to emphasize a character and kindness theme with students.

“We are trying to put that positive message out there of how we are kind to people and work through that,” he said. “At least from my school standpoint and what I see going on every day, our kids do a pretty good job with that. Unfortunately, some things happened outside of school, and it’s certainly tragic.”

School resource officers from the Casper Police Department continue to be available at the school as well, Cates said.

While some students are struggling with emotions, others may want to talk because they have concerns that “we feel police need to know.”

While the school is not a sponsor of the planned vigil for Maher from 7:30-9 p.m. at David Street Station on Thursday in Casper, Cates said the school will be ready Friday with help for students if needed.

“There will probably be some emotions after that, and we’re just ready,” he said. “These are things that we have proactively going on all the time.”

Cates said he could not comment specifically about Maher or any student at the school.

Businesses and mall management were not commenting Monday morning about the fatal stabbing incident that happened at the Eastridge Mall in Casper on Sunday.
Businesses and mall management were not commenting Monday morning about the fatal stabbing incident that happened at the Eastridge Mall in Casper on Sunday. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Some Having A Hard Time

Meanwhile, at Casper’s Youth For Christ Executive Director Sharon Lockwood said her organization has heard from some community youth they minister to about the incident.

She said her organization has outreach in some schools, but also deals with homeless youth and those not in public school.

“I think kids nowadays are seeing a lot of violence,” she said, adding that many of the youth they deal with often arrive carrying weapons because they do not feel safe. Those weapons have to be handed over before they can enter the Youth For Christ building at 353 W. A St. in Casper.

Lockwood said she has heard from a five or six young people about the stabbing and believes it is affecting them more than other incidents in the past because it happened in the daylight, outside and appears to be premeditated.

Her ministry goes into the city’s juvenile detention center twice a week, and she said she has felt the need to teach on the 10 Commandments in the Bible.

“I think we even had a statue with the 10 Commandments in a park which was removed,” she said. “It said not to murder, not to steal — and those may sound like simple things, but nowadays in our culture kids can access things online that show violence and there is not a whole lot of censorship.”

Charged As Adults

An affidavit filed in the case outlines how Maher when to the Eastridge Mall on Sunday afternoon because his girlfriend contacted him about some other teens harassing her.

When he got there, Maher encountered Jarreth Joseflee Sebastian Plunkett and Dominique Antonio Richard Harris, who allegedly jumped him outside the mall, according to the affidavits.

During the fight, Maher was taken to the ground and Plunkett allegedly stabbed him multiple times, the affidavit says.

“Once all the individuals were outside the exterior entrance doors to the mall a physical altercation ensued,” the affidavit states. Maher’s friend said that “Dom slammed (Maher) to the ground and that JJ walked up and stabbed (Maher).”

The affidavit states Maher’s friend told police that “everything happened so quickly” and that he never saw the knife until JJ walked up and started stabbing the teen.

The friend described the knife as a “kitchen-style knife” that did not have a sheath or cover and had not been visible on JJ, the affidavit states.

In video taken by others at the mall that afternoon and obtained by Casper police, the two assailants appear to be the aggressors in the conflict, the affidavit says.

“Jarreth also told (Maher) to swing on him several times; however, (Maher) clearly did not want to fight as he is seen moving in a continuous backwards motion away from Jarreth,” the affidavit states, adding that video evidence showed that Maher had circled back by the mall door. “However, due to numerous other juveniles gathering around, it appeared as if he was unable to get back inside the mall.”

The affidavit states the video shows at one point Harris moving into position to “flank” Maher as Plunkett approached him from the front. Harris then picked up Maher “around the waist, lifting him off the ground, and slamming him down with great force on his left side,” the affidavit states.

“Dominique is seen holding (Maher) while Jarreth jumped in. Dominique appeared to strike (Maher) in the face, while Jarreth is observed swinging the knife in a downward motion, stabbing (Maher) twice,” the affidavit states.

Plunkett has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault and battery, and theft. Harris has been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, aggravated assault and battery, and misdemeanor theft.

Bobby Meher and memorial 4 9 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Praying For All

Along with support from schools and churches, the Casper community at large has been vocal in its support for the Maher family and all those involved since the stabbing.

A memorial with flowers, candles and other mementos has sprung up at the west entrance of the mall where the fight happened, and local social media boards have been teeming with messages of sympathy, sorrow and disbelief.

That includes a GoFundMe effort launched by a family friend, Ashlyn Benbo, that has raised a little over $35,000 so far. In her post, she says Bobby leaves behind his parents and three brothers, and described the Mahers as “an amazing family (that) has lost their son tragically.”

She said Bobby will be missed and “was an amazing son, brother, friend and teammate! Bobby loved his family and was not only an amazing kid in school, but in general.”

The teen had a passion for playing basketball and that all who knew him and the family “are heartbroken and will never be the same without him.”

Lockwood said with young minds whose logical part of the brain is still in development, “kids at times are going to be risk takers.”

“We’re a faith-based organization, so we have prayed for not only the innocent child that was murdered, but also the juveniles that were the perpetrators because we understand there are factors that cause that motivation,” she said. “I attribute a lot to social media … kids face things these days that we never faced, when I was younger at least.”

Lockwood said when youth come in and want to talk about the incident, her strategy is to listen, empathize and be “non-judgmental.”

Youth in crisis are offered counseling, as well as referred to churches and other counselors based in the community if needed, she said.

“We always let them know we are here if they want to talk or if they just want to hang out and talk with their friends,” she said. “In our building we offer a safe, caring environment with boundaries.

Contact Dale Killingbeck at dale@cowboystatedaily.com

The executive director at Youth for Christ said her organization has heard from a handful of youth this week making comments about fatal stabbing at the mall.
The executive director at Youth for Christ said her organization has heard from a handful of youth this week making comments about fatal stabbing at the mall. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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