Local News

Durham woman charged with throwing lighter fluid on son's teacher appears in court

Posted April 25
Updated April 26

— A Durham mother’s bond was raised to $500,000 Wednesday from $50,000. Police arrested Shequela Sheala Leonard, 30, saying she threw lighter fluid on her son's Eno Valley Elementary School kindergarten teacher Monday, threatening to burn the building down, according to an arrest warrant.

Leonard was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, malicious use of explosives causing injury and misdemeanor communicating threats. She was also ordered to not to have any contact with the teacher and to stay at least 1,000 feet away from the school and the board of education.

She had her first court appearance Wednesday. If convicted, Leonard could face up to 19 years in prison.

Durham police said that teacher Megan Jones had arranged a parent-teacher conference with Leonard, who became irate at criticisms of her son's behavior.

About five minutes into the meeting, the school principal told Leonard that she needed to leave the building, and the group, which included Leonard's son, exited into a hallway, police said.

Once in the hallway, Jones told police that Leonard pulled a bottle from her purse and began spraying a liquid on Jones' arms, face and chest. Jones ran away from Leonard when the liquid began burning her eyes, police said.

According to a warrant, Jones was injured when the substance, identified as lighter fluid, splashed into her eyes.

Leonard then threatened to light Jones on fire and burn the school down, before fleeing in her SUV, the warrant said.

District superintendent Bert L'Homme released a statement on Wednesday that said Jones returned to work and that the incident was an exception to the relationship between teachers and families.

"We are very grateful that the teacher affected by Monday’s incident is all right," L'Homme said in the statement. "She returned to work Tuesday and her school family has pulled together to support her. We ask that everyone respect her privacy. This incident is a strange exception to the mutual respect DPS’s families and educators maintain every day. Teachers and families must be partners to help our children succeed in school and life, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that they feel safe and valued in working with each other."

Leonard’s family has asked for her bond to be lowered, but the judge denied that request.

According to her lawyer, Leonard has no prior violent convictions.

Leonard's husband told WRAL News he feels the bond amount is incredibly unfair, and Leonard has two children at home who desperately miss their mother.


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  • Lance Cotten Apr 27, 2:24 p.m.
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    Woman needs a long stay in a prison cell period! Premeditation should help prosecution's case for sure. No wonder her son has behavioral problems!!

  • Sara Hauser Apr 27, 9:49 a.m.
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    Seriously? Unfair??? What is fair about pouring lighter fluid on another person and threatening to set them on fire?? She needs to be put away for a long time.

  • Sean Creasy Apr 27, 8:08 a.m.
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    If this doesn't smack of premeditated then I don't know what does... She should be charged with a lot more than what she has been.. Furthermore we can all see why her son has behavioral problems now... DSS should have stepped up by now and removed any children from the toxic environment she has created...

  • Matt Smithe Apr 27, 7:14 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Never watched it but whatever make you feel superior and supports your position.

  • Kris Dawn Apr 26, 5:50 p.m.
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    She really took a bottle of lighter fluid with her....

    That is what parent/teacher conferences have come to?

  • Brenda Love Apr 26, 5:35 p.m.
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    So glad they raised her bond. This woman is dangerous.

  • Chad Stinner Apr 26, 5:04 p.m.
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    @Matt Smithe, actually, your statement is completely unsupported by fact. If you had associated "politically correct" or "leaning socialist" you would be correct. It sounds to me you watched D'Souzas film "Hillary's America" that has been absolutely obliterated when placed under scrutiny. Much like many liberal film makers who leave a lot of context and facts out.

    Now, please try to make a single statement that is accurate and supported.

  • Lee Sparrow Apr 26, 1:08 p.m.
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    Seems like a good example of "apple not falling far from the tree".

  • Jeff Freuler Apr 26, 11:32 a.m.
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    Children aren't born into this world bad. They learn from observed behavior so I have to wonder, or not, where the child learned from.

  • Brenda Lynch Apr 26, 9:56 a.m.
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    And we wonder why the kids of today are the way they are...