Georgia teen pleads guilty, is sentenced for plot to attack Black churchgoers

N'dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
This Nov. 19, 2019 photo shows the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Ga. A white 16-year-old girl is accused of plotting to attack a mostly black church in Gainesville, where police say she planned to kill worshippers because of their race.
This Nov. 19, 2019 photo shows the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Ga. A white 16-year-old girl is accused of plotting to attack a mostly black church in Gainesville, where police say she planned to kill worshippers because of their race.

A White 17-year-old girl was sentenced to four years in juvenile detention and a decade of probation Thursday after she planned to stab a group of Black churchgoers in Georgia.

The girl, who was 16 when she was arrested, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder for planning to stab worshippers at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church because of their race, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. She is also barred from going near any AME churches in Georgia or contacting any of Bethel’s members, according to the newspaper.

The "potentially horrific incident" was thwarted in 2019 when students at Gainesville High School told administrators the teen had a notebook with detailed plans to commit murder, Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said in a statement at the time. Parrish said school administrators then contacted police.

Investigators later learned that she collected knives and visited the church twice, according to the Journal-Constitution.

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"She had written down how she wanted to do it, the best way to do it," Parrish said in a news conference last year. "She had procured some butcher knives, kitchen knives, to do the attack with and had actually scouted out the location."

Gainesville is about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta. It’s a city of just over 40,000 people, about 17% of whom are African-American.

School officials searched the teen's book bag and found two T-shirts, including one that expressed support for Dylan Roof, who was convicted of fatally shooting nine Black congregants in 2015 during Bible study at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, The Times of Gainesville reported.

The girl sobbed while reading an apology Thursday, according to the outlet.

The Times reported that Bethel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Michelle Rizer-Pool, said the plot caused “irreversible harm." Rizer-Pool said the church spent thousands of dollars upgrading their security system as church attendance started to drop.

“There are not enough sermons that I can preach, and the choir cannot sing enough about faith, hope and love to erase these images and fears,” she said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia teen is sentenced for plot to attack Black churchgoers