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Student Pleads Guilty to Putting Acid in Teacher's Water

Posted March 28, 2007
Updated April 12, 2007

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— A Cary High School student pleaded guilty Wednesday to spiking his science teacher's water bottle with acid.

Zachary Midgett, 17, agreed to plead guilty to a charge of assault on a government official in exchange for a sentence to a six-month boot camp program called Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, where he can earn his high school diploma.

District Judge William Creech said said he would revisit the case in December, and Midgett could face jail time if he doesn't successfully complete the boot camp program. Assault on a government official carries a maximum sentence of 150 days in jail.

Midgett admitted putting hydrochloric acid and zinc chloride from the school science lab in a water bottle belonging to teacher Wendy Beeler two months ago, police said.

Beeler said she was drinking from the bottle while her students were taking a test and noticed the water tasted funny. She said she realized something was wrong only when one of her students warned her not to drink any more water.

Hydrochloric acid is a highly corrosive liquid that, if concentrated, can cause severe burns on the skin and can be deadly if swallowed or inhaled. It's also a main component in stomach acid, aiding in breaking down and digesting food.

Zinc chloride is a white powder that is considered highly toxic if ingested. It is used in processing textiles and soldering metals.

Beeler said she broke out in a rash and felt weak after drinking the water. She was treated at WakeMed Cary hospital and released.

Defense attorney Duncan McMillan said Midgett never intended to harm Beeler, calling the incident a foolish prank.

"He understands certainly what he did was foolish, recognizes in hindsight how potentially dangerous it was and is sorry that he did it," McMillan said.

Midgett was expelled from Cary High after the incident, and Beeler said she agreed to the boot camp proposal to help the teen get his life back on the right track.

"I don't really know his heart. I hope he's sorry," she said.

"She had a devoted career of trying to advance students, and it seems to me when a student turns on a teacher like this, it's like shooting himself in the foot," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Matt Godwin said.

Beeler said she considered giving up her 19-year teaching career after the incident, but decided she couldn't let fear keep her from her passion. Still, she said, the incident is something she will never forget.

"He forced me to intake some poison, poison in my lab. I was very upset by that," she said.


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  • JustDontUnderstandPpl Mar 31, 2007

    pinkpaper...I agree with you. This "kid" isn't sorry he did this, he is "sorry" that he got caught. One thing I have noticed about teens breaking the law...those who don't want any punishment for them call them "kids". Those who think the teens should be held accountable call them "young adults". I am quite sure that the teens who would normally be insulted at being called a "kid" are happy to be called that if it gets them "off the hook"...

  • JustDontUnderstandPpl Mar 31, 2007

    gvmtcheese, I love people too. I am just one who prefers to see even CHILDREN take responsibility for their actions so that they might grow up to be ADULTS who take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming others in some way for "causing them" to do what they did. I don't want everyone dead or in jail...just tired of EXCUSES and slaps on the wrist. Why is there a "3 strikes" law? Because the law allows you to keep doing what you are doing wrong at least two more times after the first time. When no one is held accountable, no one feels the need to follow the law. So...are you proposing that everyone just do what he or she feels like doing, as long as they "learn" from the experience? If so, I sure hope that one of your loved ones isn't the one that provides the "experience".

  • AmericaFirst Mar 30, 2007

    yea.right: If your child got an English assignment requiring that s/he plot a suicide or any other detrimental or lethal act, it is your duty as a parent to ask for a conference with that teacher and with the principal. As a teacher, I can tell you that those were outrageous assignments and that you as the parent should object. Education is supposed to be enlightening. There are positive prompts to make a student think, to analyze, to synthesize knowledge. Our H.S. students are required in every subject to submit a writing assignment in every class every week, and I can tell you that I am appalled that any teacher would appeal to a child's baser, rather than uplifting, instincts. Don't let your child's psyche be abused like that.

  • gvmtcheese Mar 30, 2007

    Likethat, the link does not work. I will hold off in responding to your comment until I see the site.

  • Lightfoot Mar 30, 2007

    Hmmm, he's 17, and think's this is a foolish prank? Yeah, right. That's lawyer talk for have mercy on me.

    At the least, this was assault with the intention of doing SERIOUS bodily harm. At most it was attempted MURDER. Maybe he should be dangled from a tree with a rope around his neck. It would only be a prank, with no intention of harm, of course.

  • gvmtcheese Mar 30, 2007

    justdontunderstandpeople, you sound like a nazi, jew hating scumbag who wants to see everyone in this world dead or in jail. I am sorry that I love humanity, I am sorry that I prefer to give CHILDREN the benefit of the doubt. Just my opinion.

  • psshhhhitslexi Mar 30, 2007

    Go_ back_ north--**THE TEACHER WAS PROBABLY A JERK**...this teacher is not a jerk. my dughter is in her chemistry class and enjoys it very much. she was most not a jerk at all. if you knew her at all, and not just judged people without knowing them you would not be saying that.

  • carolinagirl19 Mar 29, 2007

    i'm certainly not on this boy's side.. but on the other hand. my child just had assigment in english to write a suicide note or a note telling someone how to plot a murder. a correct answer on one test was to set the school on fire with students inside.. who knows maybe this teacher was twisted too...and drove the boy that crazy!?

  • Like that Mar 29, 2007

    What is cruel and unusual punishment? This teen's sentence upsets me because he could have killed that teacher. I don't like to wave the race card but this is one of THOSE cases. Please read this article that I post and see if you agree. This is what the NAACP is needed for, racial injustice. http://www.bet.com/NR/exeres/33F73FAC-9AB1-4EED-93F1-8605ED01767C.htm?wbc_pu

  • JustDontUnderstandPpl Mar 29, 2007

    gvmtcheese...you sound like one of those loving people who think that everyone just needs a hug, kiss, and some encouraging words to change their lives. puh-leaze...there are some REAL CRIMINALS out there who CANNNOT be rehabilitated. People shouldn't get a slap on the wrist and told, "Okay, you did it this time and I know you won't do it again." That is what is wrong with our world today. NO RESPONSIBILITY.