Suspect released from jail on bail
By Jessica Creagan
VERO BEACH -- Last week, a bomb threat to Vero Beach Elementary School was proven false and a suspect was arrested, and then released on bail.
On April 1, Matthew Vaughn Hawks, 26, 970 44th Court, Vero Beach, was charged with false report of planting a bomb and was released on April 2 after posting a $5,000 bond.
Jesse Larsen, Mr. Hawks' legal counsel, released a statement on behalf of Mr. Hawks and his family on April 4.
"While pending criminal charges limit how much information can be disclosed, Mr. Hawks' family felt that it was important to provide the following background information to avoid an irreparable misunderstanding of the facts," Mr. Larsen wrote.
Mr. Hawks has been diagnosed with Asperger's disorder, an autism spectrum disorder that inhibits a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others, and his IQ scores place him in the bottom 2 percent of the population in terms of cognitive ability, the statement said.
When he reached adulthood, Mr. Hawks voluntarily surrendered some of his rights in a limited guardian status to his father and maternal grandmother, and they are the ones that make many decisions for him, some of which include his social environments, determining his residence and entering into contracts.
"It concerns the family deeply that sensationalism of this story may have contributed to this important information being omitted from news reports," the statement said.
Mr. Larsen concluded the letter by asking for the family's privacy and thanking those that have supported them.
According to investigators with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, Mr. Hawkes made four telephone calls within 20 minutes of each other to the Indian River County Sheriff's Office on April 1, all concerning a bomb he was going to detonate or knew would be detonated at the elementary school on April 2.
Some of the calls sounded like a pre-recorded voice, while others had an interactive dialogue like speaking to an actual person, the arrest report said.
Local law enforcement and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office bomb squad swept the elementary school grounds three times before students returned to school on April 2 and found nothing, and school continued as scheduled.
Indian River County School District did not make an emergency call to parents about the threat, but deputies were at the school on April 2 and assured everyone the school was safe.
During the fourth conversation, the dispatcher with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office asked the caller if he would meet with a law enforcement officer, as the Indian River County Sheriff's Office will pay money for information on crimes and the caller agreed. The caller provided a cell phone number where he could be reached and said he would be wearing a Florida Gator's shirt.
A law enforcement officer made contact with Mr. Hawks outside of his home and Mr. Hawks, wearing a Florida Gator's shirt, denied contacting the Indian River County Sheriff's Department about a bomb threat that day.
Mr. Hawks requested a lawyer when he was taken into custody for questioning.
No explosives were found at Mr. Hawkes' home upon execution of a search warrant, the arrest report said.
Motive for the bomb threat is unclear, but investigators said Mr. Hawks had been a credentialed volunteer at Vero Beach and Dodgertown elementary schools and the Boys and Girls Club of Indian River County last year, but following an arrest for a misdemeanor charge of battery on a minor, the volunteer permissions were revoked.
For more information about the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, visit www.ircsheriff.org or www.facebook.com/ircsheriff.