Original article no longer available.
The Augusta Chronicle, (GA)
October 22, 1995
Author: James R. Langford, South Carolina Bureau
Toby R. Sincino had told friends he didn’t expect to reach manhood. But no one expected he wouldn’t even live to see his 16th birthday. The boy his friends called “Peanut” was troubled, but he was also quiet and shy, friends said. He would brag about carrying a gun, but they didn’t think he would ever use it.
Toby would get in trouble at school and with police, but he would attend Toby R. Sincino two Sundays a month. He occasionally picked on classmates but often felt he was the one being bullied. Toby, the kid with the criminal record, shot two Blackville-Hilda High School teachers Oct. 12, killing one. Toby killed himself moments later.
It’s likely no one will ever know exactly why, lead investigators said last week. Toby slipped into the school’s rear entrance about 8:40 a.m. First, he stopped at the room where Johnny Thompson was teaching a math class and shot the 38-year-old in the face. Walking toward the office, he came across 56-year-old teacher Phyllis Senn. She saw the gun and tried to duck back into a workroom, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Hugh Munn said.
Toby shot her in the back; she staggered into the workroom and collapsed. He continued to the guidance office, was unable to open a locked door, walked a few steps more and shot himself in the head. Barnwell County Coroner Lloyd Ward has returned to both Blackville Middle School and Blackville-Hilda High since the shootings to talk with students. He has answered their myriad questions as best he can, all except for how the incident could have happened.
“The only person who knows what the intent of that day was is Toby,” Mr. Ward said. “He made a decision at the end to take his own life, and we’ll never have the answers to those questions.” Toxicology reports and drug screens from an autopsy show Toby hadn’t been using illegal drugs or drinking when he went on his rampage through the high school, Mr. Ward added.
But there were warning signs beforehand. Toby, who had a criminal record that included pointing a gun and simple battery, was familiar with violence. Toby’s aunt, Carolyn McCreary, said he had been undergoing counseling with the Department of Mental Health and was taking medicine for emotional problems. His medication, Zoloft, is frequently prescribed as an antidepressant.
A relatively new drug, it has fewer side effects than antidepressants popular in the late 1980s such as Elavil and Tofranil, University Hospital pharmacist Marie Jackson said. The Physician’s Desk Reference, a guide to medications commonly used by doctors, warns that the medication may not eliminate the “inherent risk of suicide” that comes with depressed patients. Further, psychiatrists say that just before a teen’s suicide or suicide attempt, there usually is some sort of traumatic separation. It could be parents kicking the child out, a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend or severe problems at school, said George Holmes, a University of South Carolina psychologist who wrote the recently published Helping Teenagers Into Adulthood: A Guide to the Next Generation.
In Toby’s case, he had been suspended the day before the shootings. He was going to be expelled. The teen, who wanted to work as a welder and was shuttled between the homes of estranged parents Randolph “Pete” Sincino and Gerlean McCreary Sincino, hinted to friends the day before the shooting he might not be alive much longer. Asked if he was going to a Thursday night party, he answered “No,” saying he was going to heaven, a classmate said.
Chris Tyler, a Blackville-Hilda senior, who had been friends with Toby for the past three years, thinks the 15-year-old came back to Blackville-Hilda for revenge. Chris said Toby’s academic career had declined steadily since the sixth grade, when Toby slapped a teacher.
He was expelled from Blackville-Hilda near the beginning of the 1994-95 school year but was allowed to return in 1995-96 on a strict probation. Then, he boasted to friend Amanda Davis that he had a gun and told her his heroes were Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson. But all his friends say the youth had a brighter side. “Me and Toby were good friends,” said Lynette Johnson, an 11th-grader. “He kept his feelings inside. He was very sweet and shy.”
School Superintendent Richard Huggins recalled the boy’s good moments, too. He remembered the youth carrying boxes into Blackville-Hilda for him just two weeks before the shooting. “I said `How are you doing, Toby, and he said `Fine, Mr. Huggins.’ I said `Are you learning,’ and he said `Yes, Mr. Huggins.’ ”
Shortly afterward, on Oct. 11, Toby was caught making an obscene gesture on a school bus. He was suspended and would have been expelled since he was already on probation. The Oct. 12 shootings weren’t Toby’s first encounter with guns. Sources familiar with the case said Toby had an upcoming Family Court date on charges of pointing and presenting a firearm as well as simple assault.
He had already been sentenced to probation on prior Family Court charges of shoplifting and simple assault, sources said. Since the shooting, Toby’s mother has blamed her youngster’s actions on racism in the school system. That’s a charge school officials flatly deny. Mr. Atkins said the boy understood both that he was on probation at school and why. Mr. Huggins wonders: “Who could have foreseen that a simple suspension would lead to (these) tragic events?” “Violence with guns plagues our society today,” the superintendent added. “Despite all our efforts we can’t always prevent the ills of society from invading our schools.”
Record Number: 0012060689