State News

Teacher Angry After Water Bottle Tainted With Acid

Posted January 9, 2007 7:32 a.m. EST
Updated April 12, 2007 5:45 p.m. EDT

— A Cary High School student has been released on bond after allegedly spiking a science teacher's water bottle with acid.

Zachary Midgett, 17, was arrested Monday on a charge of assault on a government official. The misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of 150 days in jail.

Police said Midgett admitted putting hydrochloric acid and zinc chloride from the school science lab in his teacher's water bottle last Friday.

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

"I felt flushed all over. I broke out in a rash and felt weak," Beeler said, adding that a student got her help. "Fortunately, I must not have had enough consumption because it can close your esophagus and you can die from both of those substances."

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.

"We are treating it as a crime, as a very serious offense against an individual, and it's something we won't take lightly and school officials won't take lightly," Said Sgt. Randy Byrd of the Cary Police Department.

Beeler was treated at Western Wake Medical Center and released. But she remains shaken by the incident.

"I'm hurt, angry. A lot of emotions are involved," she said.

"She was explaining it to us (Monday) in class. She was looking like she was going to cry, but she didn't. She looked like, why me, and she didn't think anything about it while she was drinking it," student Sheena Amy said.

Students also were upset by the poisoning.

"How do you do something like that, put acid in somebody's drink? That's just cold-hearted," student Kailin Daniels said.

"I think it's messed up. I think they shouldn't do that to their teacher. Why would he want to put someone's life in danger like that?" student Crystal Thompson said.

Midgett, whose family couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday, is serving an automatic 10-day suspension pending further action. He could face long-term suspension or expulsion or be moved to an alternative school, according to Wake County school system policies.

The school punishment is made independently of the criminal investigation. Beeler said she hopes the courts and the school district make the punishment fit the crime.

"I think that, if something doesn't happen now, there will be something more serious down the line," she said.