On Oct. 7, the Davidson High School homecoming court took to the football field with the marching band. The football team went on to a triumphant 24-7 win against Upper Arlington.

On Oct. 7, the Davidson High School homecoming court took to the football field with the marching band. The football team went on to a triumphant 24-7 win against Upper Arlington.

Not long before that, near the Ohio State University campus, another Davidson student had been taken into custody, accused of hatching a murder plot that, had he been able to pull it off, might have killed or injured Davidson students, and involved lots of guns, a locked cafeteria and up to 15 collaborators.

Police and prosecutors say that John L. Staley III, 16, had drawn a detailed map of the school building, a list of weapons and the duties of his helpers. He had approached several others to help him, and a few showed interest.

Authorities also say Staley had visited a gun store and acquired some supplies, but they won't say whether he obtained weapons. A search warrant also revealed images of firearms on his cellphone, according to the investigation.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office watched Staley for a couple of weeks after he and two students he allegedly recruited were removed from Davidson on Sept. 21 -- the day another student who had overheard the plan reported it to the school resource officer.

A task force involving the FBI arrested Staley on Oct. 7. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien has filed a motion to try him as an adult, and Staley will remain in custody at the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center until at least Nov. 28 when a judge will consider whether to do so. Those two students also removed from Davidson likely to be used as witnesses against Staley rather than face criminal charges, according to O'Brien.

Staley, who is represented by attorney Stephen E. Palmer, had been scheduled to appear Oct. 17 in juvenile court after prosecutors sought to have Staley tried as an adult. The hearing to consider his status was continued to Nov. 28, O'Brien said.

The investigation has not uncovered a motive for the planned shooting.

"(It appears) he just wanted to carry out a shooting," O'Brien said.

Meanwhile, Palmer has visited Staley at the detention center.

"He's a scared boy," Palmer said. "He's obviously emotional. He's obviously fearful.

"The family is deeply concerned about this young man and is trying to support him as much as possible."

Palmer said he and prosecutors would spend the next weeks sharing information as part of the discovery process leading up to Staley's next court hearing.

It is too soon, he said, for him to comment on any assertions by the prosecution or discuss anything he considers mitigating for his client.

When asked whether Staley actually intended to carry out his plan, Palmer said he doesn't yet know enough about the prosecution's allegations or the evidence to comment.

A man who answered the door last week at Staley's listed address in northwest Columbus declined to comment.

A few Davidson students said that shooting rumors have been circulating since the school year started, long before police and the district announced Sept. 22 that a "perceived threat" had been thwarted. They now say that threat was tied to Staley.

After all the chatter, "to know that somebody actually planned this out, that's so scary," said sophomore Brittany Johnson, 15.

She said doesn't know Staley well, but she was aware of him. He stuck to his group of friends.

"It's never the quiet kids you think are going to do something like this," she said.

Abdi Ali, a 17-year-old senior, said he and Staley shared some classes.

"He's usually hanging out with the emo kids," Ali said. "I'm in his study hall, and he had his head down a lot."

He said that students were telling one another not to go to school Oct. 7, the day of Davidson's homecoming pep rally and big game, because they'd heard that something bad might happen.

"Some people were, like, skipping (school)," Ali said.

"I think I begged my mom to let me stay home," said 15-year-old Makenzie Palmer, a sophomore.

"I felt so uneasy the whole time I was there (at the pep rally)," said Huda Hassan, 14 and a freshman.

Police say the plan was discovered after a student overheard Staley discussing it with another student on the bus, and went to the school resource officer, who mobilized school officials and the Hilliard police.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen praised the student who reported what he heard and held it up as a perfect example of how "see something, say something" can avert a tragedy.

Attorney Brad Koffel is representing the boy who was overheard talking with Staley. He declined to identify his client, a juvenile who hasn't been charged, but said that the details made public by O'Brien match what his client said happened.

Koffel said Staley and this boy aren't friends or in the same grade, but they rode the bus together and Staley set out to recruit him.

"He's just a kid that kept to himself," Koffel said. "He's not a star athlete; he's not trying to be visible. He just wants to get out of high school and get on with college. Maybe because of that, he's just kind of seen as low-hanging fruit."

The boy was shown the diagram of the plan several times. Koffel confirmed that locking the cafeteria doors was a key part of it and that getaway cars were involved.

"He thought it was just a joke," Koffel said of his client. "He realized it was not a joke once the principal called him down to the office and the detectives got involved."

For the boy's full cooperation and because he had declined to go along with the plot, Koffel said, he was told he won't be prosecuted. The 10-day out-of-school suspension he was given has expired and he's now staying home while he and his family decide where he will attend school.

Koffel said that other youngsters who might get caught up in something like this shouldn't let fear of punishment deter them from going to police.

"There's always a route out. ... If there's a plan, abandon it, report it, be truthful with the investigators," he said.

ThisWeek reporter Kevin Corvo contributed to this story.

sgilchrist@dispatch.com

@shangilchrist