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Teen Plan of Violent Evening Thwarted

Aired July 7, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: First, we begin with the heavily armed trio of teenagers roaming a suburb of Philadelphia, killing as they go. Prosecutors say that was the plan of an 18-year-old voted most bashful by his high school class. He's now being called the mastermind of this deadly plot by officials.
Deborah Feyerick has the latest details, the plan, the arrest and what happens now.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Matthew Lovett as his father knows him, a happy but shy kid, scarred by the death of his mother when he was only 9 years old.

This is the Matthew Lovett in custody, described by prosecutors as an 18-year-old Columbine wanna-be. Police say he went out Saturday night with two teenage friends, all armed with rifles, shotguns and knives.

VINCENT SARUBBI, CAMDEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Their plan was to hijack a vehicle. They had identified three juveniles that they had planned to execute. Once they had completed that aspect of the plan, they were going to move on and randomly kill people.

FEYERICK: Lovett's uncle believes Matthew would never have pulled the trigger.

TOM CRYMES, UNCLE: If he was determined to do that sort of thing, he would have shot at the officers, he would have done something else. He didn't do that.

FEYERICK: Lovett graduated Collingswood High School three weeks ago. He got As in computers and graphic design but struggled with journalism.

(on camera) In journalism class what kind of stories did you guys cover?

DANA PANZONE, CLASSMATE: We covered Columbine and snipers; we covered everything.

FEYERICK: So what -- did you ever hear him talk about any of those incidents?

PANZONE: No. Totally unexpected.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Other classmates say Lovett and his younger brother, who had a cleft palate, were often picked on.

NATALIE WILKERSON, CLASSMATE: He wouldn't defend himself, like, he wouldn't say anything back, so I guess he tried to ignore it and bottle it up inside.


FEYERICK: His father tells us that he has not spoken to Matthew since the incident. He says, though, police are telling him his son is in lockdown and is undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

The family says it cannot afford the $75,000 cash to get their son released from prison -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Deborah Feyerick, thank you very much.

It is such a bizarre story. He's not the only one involved in this. There are allegedly two other, even younger children involved. Their names have not been released because of their ages.

And Matthew Lovett's father, as Deborah Feyerick pointed out, says his son had never fired a gun and also calls him a home body. Police and prosecutors maintain that Lovett is the driving force behind this potentially violent conspiracy.

We want to turn now to a classmate of Lovett's for some insight. Paul Phillips is his name. He joins us from Oakland, New Jersey.

Paul, thanks for being with us. This has just got to be surreal for you. I mean, this is a kid known to you and a couple of other classmates until just a couple days ago. Now known to the much of the country.

What kind of young man is this guy?

PAUL PHILLIPS, FRIEND OF SUSPECT: He's a quiet kid. I mean, he kept to himself. I guess anti-social is the best way and different is the best way to describe him.

COOPER: Different in what way? I mean, you've known him, I think, since ninth grade. I think you're in 12th grade now, or just graduated. Describe him. I mean, the picture we're seeing right now is him in Black clothing. And did he always wear Black? What was he like?

PHILLIPS: Yes. He always wore Black clothes, tight pants and, I mean, he's an easy target for kids to pick on. And maybe that's why they picked on him. He had a way he walked.

COOPER: in what way was he an easy target?

PHILLIPS: Just the way he walked, the way he talked, the clothes he wore, just a number of ways. He was just an easy target for kids to pick on and he never fought back about anything. He just kind of took the blows from the kids.

COOPER: Did you ever feel threatened by him?

PHILLIPS: No, not personally. I never felt threatened by him. He doesn't strike me as someone that would do something like this.

COOPER: Did -- we understand he had a younger brother who had a cleft palate and who got teased a lot because of that. Do you know the younger brother as well? And did you ever see them interacting?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I think he was really close to his younger brother. I didn't know his younger brother, though, so I can't really talk about that.

COOPER: But is that also part of what his kids would tease him about, his younger brother and his...

PHILLIPS: Yes, just family stuff like that. They would really kind of level on him.

COOPER: I mean, this is such a bizarre thing. Does this make any sense to you? I mean, do you kind of get what he's being accused of at all?

PHILLIPS: No. I just can't believe it. I'm just shocked because, I mean, I live three houses away from him. And the hijacking was right on the corner of my street.

COOPER: Is there one moment, you know, as you look back at the four years that you've known this guy. Is there any movement that sort of stands out that kind of talks about what kind of a person he was?

PHILLIPS: I guess at Project Graduation. Which I have a picture if you would like to see it.


PHILLIPS: This is Matt Lovett at project graduation. He's kind of sitting by himself in the corner. It's really me and my three friends, but we kind of zoomed in on Matt. He's just kind of keeping to himself. And it was a six-hour thing. And he stayed there pretty much the whole time, the whole night.

COOPER: Project Graduation is some sort of -- what, it's a six- hour event with lots of different activities and sort of games and stuff?

PHILLIPS: Yes. It was -- yes it was 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. We all went on a bus after graduation. And they had swimming. They had a dance club there. They had a bunch of obstacle courses. They had pictures and stuff like that that you can take with your friends, like old time photos. And he didn't participate in any of it.

COOPER: Well, Paul, we appreciate you coming in and talking about your classmate. I know it's a strange thing and an odd thing to be on TV talking about this. But we appreciate you spending the time. Thank you. PHILLIPS: Sure thing.


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