When police searched the boy's home, they found the stash of weapons two frightened teenagers had warned them about. A machete and a stun gun were among the items that were recovered in the "preemptive arrest."
The 16-year-old owner is being held without bail. He was turned in by friends whom he had allegedly attacked; one with a blow dart, the other with a metal bar. The friends claimed the boy had five people on his hit list.
According to Newburyport police Inspector Brian Brunault, "They said he wanted to know what it would feel like to stab someone and let the blood run down his arm."
The names of those involved are being withheld because all three are all juveniles.
"He was the sweetest boy," says a neighbor. "I let him babysit for my kids." She may not have seen the boy's violent streak, but his friends had -- along with the arsenal he'd purchased over the Internet and kept hidden from his parents.
One classmate says, "I was kinda scared knowing that someone had all that stuff. It was a scary thing, what he could do with it."
Experts say teenagers can tell the difference between an innocent prank and a friend's cry for help. That's why, in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting, they're increasingly breaking the old rules by telling on their peers.
"We're more aware that there are kids who need help and we are not reaching out to them sometimes," explains Dr. John Watkins, Orange County Children's Hospital. "And we need to identify those kids and take appropriate action to support and help them before it's too late."
Across the country, kids and the authorities are jittery. A case in point: The FBI quickly arrested an 18-year-old Florida man who'd sent a threatening E-mail to a Columbine student. In Colorado, officials took no chances and closed the school -- giving students a 2-day head-start on the Christmas holiday.