Did two California high school students bake a batch of cookies containing one of their grandfather’s ashes — and then serve the treats to classmates?
That’s the question that has spread beyond the walls of Da Vinci Charter Academy, making headlines as police look into the matter.
“This girl is going around telling everyone, basically at this point, that she had brought in these cookies to school with human ashes in them,” a student told local TV station KTXL.
The student’s mother also spoke with KTXL and said she was outraged about the incident: “It blew my mind. I was really repulsed and I was upset that I wasn’t even notified.”
Authorities tell PEOPLE that the strange story seems legitimate, but it’s hard to know for sure.
“We’re conducting an investigation into it to try to find out more facts. But really the school is taking the lead on the disposition of the case,” says Lt. Paul Doroshov, spokesman for the Davis police. “We’ve taken a report that we’ve classified under California penal code as a public nuisance.”
“Based on the interviews that were conducted through our investigation, they seemed credible,” Doroshov explains. “Am I 100 percent sure? I really don’t know of a way to tell at this point.”
According to police, two girls who are students at the academy, which is a three-year high school, recently took a batch of the allegedly contaminated sugar cookies to school with them. A school resource officer was informed about it on Oct. 4.
Nine students ate the cookies — some who believed they had ashes baked inside and others who had no idea until after eating, Doroshov says.
“We’re getting conflicting reports,” he explains. “I’m trying to keep a straight face while talking to you. This incident is just out there. It’s a really weird story.”
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The cookies have not been sent to a crime lab or tested. “Honestly, I don’t even know if there’s any left,” Doroshov says. (Previous reports that the cookies contained ashes of one of the girls’ grandmothers were incorrect, he says.)
Doroshov says “there may be more” students who ate the cookies. “You know how things are with teenagers and schools — it takes a while for the facts to really surface. Some people come forward and some don’t.”
Police don’t know what may have motivated the girls to bring the cookies to class, he says. Any explanation would be a guess and it was unlikely linked to Halloween, which was weeks away at the time.
On Tuesday Principal Tyler Millsap posted a letter to parents on the school’s web site describing the issue as “particularly challenging.”
“I can say that those who were involved are remorseful and this is now a personal family matter and we want to respect the privacy of the families involved,” he wrote.
PEOPLE’s calls to the school principal’s office were referred to a district spokesperson, who declined to be interviewed. The district instead sent an abridged version of the principal’s letter.
Doroshov declined to identify the two students further except to say that they are not siblings. He says that under state law, as both girls are juveniles, “there’s a lot of leeway as to what the next step is going to be.”
“You don’t necessarily have to run out and make an arrest. There’s other options,” he says. “We’ll continue to work with the school and help them in any parts of the inquiry and come to what’s the best path.”
So far, no students have reported that they threw up or felt sick after eating the cookies.
“But who knows,” Doroshov says, “after this news stuff, somebody might call in.”