ST. CHARLES, MO. (KMOV.com) – The suspect charged with shooting a Francis Howell teacher in the woods has been sentenced to 22 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
The Office of Prosecuting Attorney says Joshua Curtis, 36, of Winfield, MO plead guilty to first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Charges were filled on Nov. 29, 2017, when he allegedly opened fire striking a teacher jogging in a commonly used trail at Francis Howell High School.
Police said Joshua R. Curtis had been camping out in the woods by Francis Howell High School and had a stash of ammunition. Police believe he could have been living in the wooded area for two months.
According to police, the teacher was jogging on the Hamburg Trail near the school around 3 p.m. when encountered Curtis, who he doesn't know.
As the teacher passed by, Curtis turned and shot him in the back. Multiple shots were fired, but only one hit the teacher. Curtis didn’t take anything from the teacher and immediately fled the scene in the opposite direction.
The teacher was able to get to Highway 94 and flag down a motorist, who drove him back to Francis Howell High School. Once there, someone at the school administered medical aid until an ambulance got to the school. The teacher was conscious and talking to emergency responders when they arrived.
The teacher was released from the hosptial in November.
Police and SWAT officers searched the area for the suspect using dogs but were unable to locate him. The search continued into the night and picked back up when an officer in a police helicopter spotted a tent in the wildlife area near the trail. Around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Curtis was taken into custody.
According to court documents, inside the tent officials found a “Gun mate” black range bag with a Plano Handgun Ammunition Case designed to hold 100 rounds of 9mm or .380 ACP ammunition inside. They also found a receipt from “Ultimate Defense” that was to Curtis’ mother.
According to officials, Curtis showed “no emotion” when he was told of the charge.
Curtis’ family members told police the suspect did take a class several years ago at the Ultimate Defense Firing Range. They also said Curtis owned a handgun when they moved out of the state several years ago. Since then, the family has had a falling out with Curtis and does not speak with him often.
When police searched Curtis’ vehicle, investigators found a locked safe generally used to store handguns under the front driver’s seat but there was not a gun inside. Conservation agents reported seeing Curtis’ vehicle in the area for the past two months.
A witness on the trail said he saw a person who matched Curtis' description talking into an item believed to be a radio. When Curtis was taken into custody, he was reportedly in possession of a handheld device similar to the one the witness described, however, police have not been able to determine if he was talking to anyone on the other end or if the radio even functions properly.
There was a second tent found in the area, but prosecutors said the items in the tent all belong to Curtis.
The injured teacher was able to identify Curtis as the suspect through a photo lineup, according to officials.
Officials believe Curtis picked his victim at random on the trail.
"How can you predict someone is going to do something so sadistic?" said St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar. "We haven't been able to determine a clear motive."
Lohmar also said they have seen no overt indications Curtis is mentally ill.
Police are continuing to search the area of the shooting for the gun used in the attack.
“We never would have thought it would ever happen,” said Anthony Giacalone, a senior at the school. “Those trails are safe. I’ve ran them for four years now, nothing like this has ever occurred so it was shocking to me.”
After the shooting and when investigators were back in the area, the high school and surrounding schools were placed on lockdown. The lockdown was lifted when Curtis was taken into custody.
“That is very scary. It just missed. I feel like it could have been a lot worse than what happened. We are very thankful for that,” said Logan Goulet, a student taught by the teacher who was shot.
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