Chained and handcuffed, deputies escorted April Rhoten, 18, and James Perkins separately into and out of court, Tuesday. They stood before the judge for allegedly plotting a potentially gruesome crime, together.
"My understanding was that they formed a relationship after they both were participants here," said Heather Goggans, workforce development manager for Goodwill Industries of East Texas. She supervised both Rhoten and Perkins, participants in high school work programs. She said Perkins was fairly quiet, but outgoing. "He made a lot of friends here." Goggans said April was reserved and didn't make friends quite as easily as James.
Goggans became concerned after becoming aware of some disturbing conversations. "I had asked James regarding this text message that was reportedly sent," she said. She said his responses to her questions were enough for her to contact police.
In a text message, Rhoten asked Perkins, 'Can you kill him for me?'
He replied, 'Probably.'
'Do you know for sure?' she asked.
His response was, 'Yes, I could."
"He obviously needs some help and needs some support," said Joe Stubblefield, superintendent of Chapel Hill ISD. He said Perkins was always a troubled student.
Some of those troubles began at Chapel Hill High School, where Smith County detectives were called out to investigate a letter Perkins wrote, threatening another female student. "I was glad the authorities were able to thwart what possibly could have been more serious," said Stubblefield. "The worst part is that we couldn't get any help, earlier."
And now, those who knew both teens are remorseful, but hopeful the two can somehow get back on the right track.