Valpo High School slasher out of treatment seven years after attack

2011-11-19T13:15:00Z 2011-11-20T20:50:13Z Valpo High School slasher out of treatment seven years after attackBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
November 19, 2011 1:15 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Seven years after attacking classmates at Valparaiso High School with a machete and saw, James Lewerke has been released from a residential treatment facility.

Lewerke, who is now 22 and living with relatives in Mason City, Iowa, has not had a single violation during the nearly five years he has been on probation, according to Chief Porter County Adult Probation Officer Stephen Meyer.

"There is still a long way to go," Meyer said.

Lewerke is not expected to be released from probation until March 23, 2019.

Thanksgiving will mark the seventh anniversary of the attacks, which took place on the eve of the same holiday in 2004.

As the first snow of the season fell during the morning of Nov. 24, 2004, Lewerke, then 15 and a freshman, offered to close a classroom door and turn off the lights for a video to be shown before pulling out a machete and tree saw and slashing other students in his Spanish class.

Before school administrators tackled Lewerke in the hallway, the boy had left seven students wounded and the community shaken. Those students later shared their physical and emotional wounds with the court, which helped lead to Lewerke being waived to adult court.

He pleaded guilty but mentally ill to eight felony counts. A psychologist testified Lewerke believed God told him he was a Messiah figure who should cleanse evil from the world.

Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford sentenced the then-17-year-old on Feb. 23, 2007, to be locked up at a mental health treatment center until he turned 21 and then spend the next 9 1/2 years on probation, during which he is required to continue receiving psychiatric treatment. Nearly a year was shaved off the sentence for time already served.

"I ask for forgiveness from the ones I have hurt," Lewerke said in his first public statement since the attack.

While the Porter County probation office and local courts ultimately are responsible for Lewerke during his probation, he is being supervised by a probation officer in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa.

That supervisor, Gretchen Hollander, said she was unable to discuss any of the specifics of the case.

The legal firm that represented Lewerke during his criminal case did not return a telephone call for comment.

Meyer was unsure about the day-to-day requirements of the Iowa probation office, but said Lewerke would need clearance from his office before moving from the relative's house where he now lives.

"I think on a whole the system handled it well," Meyer said of the case.

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