When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Dillon Cossey
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
In 2007, 14-year-old Dillon Cossey from Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania was arrested for plotting a “Columbine-style attack” on a local high school.
Dillon was enrolled in public school through middle school. He experienced bullying and frequent torment. As a result, his guidance counselor referred him in 2005 to a support team. This team met with his mother, 46-year-old Michele Cossey, who expressed at the time she was concerned about — among other things — her son’s “military obsession.” In 2006, the district said it “was actively and constructively working with the family until the family chose to withdraw the child from the Colonial School District.”
It was in 7th grade that Michele withdrew Dillon from public school to be homeschooled. During this time, Michele directly helped Dillon obtain weapons — this despite her own expressed concern in 2005 that he had a disconcerting military obsession. She illegally bought Dillon “a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle with a laser scope.” (His father, 56-year-old Frank Cossey, also attempted to buy him a rifle in 2005.)
While homeschooled, Dillon had very few opportunities to interact with people outside his home. He reportedly was “so totally desocialized, he has no friends.” For his home education, his mother “let him get his lessons off the Web.”
Inspired by the bullying he experienced in public school, Dillon developed a plan to attack a public high school, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. On his MySpace page, Dillon listed the Columbine school shooting as an interest and paid tribute to that shooting’s masterminds, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. His massacre plans were prevented when he attempted to recruit another boy. The attempted recruit tipped off the police. When police searched Dillon’s room, they found an entire inventory of weaponry, including not only guns but swords and a bomb-making book.
Dillon was charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder as well as conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. He was sentenced in December 2007 to up to 7 years in a juvenile treatment center. After his sentencing, Dillon told the judge that, “I am very sorry, but I do want to get help. I also hope that me and my family as a whole can get help.”
Michele Coffey also received multiple charges, including 3 felonies for buying weapons for a minor. The judge that sentenced Dillon sharply reprimanded her, saying Michele instilled in Dillon “a ‘me and Mom against the world’ attitude.”
View the case index here.