French Student to Be Charged With Premeditated Murder in Teacher’s Stabbing

PARIS — After stabbing his Spanish teacher, who was at the blackboard teaching a class, the 16-year-old student walked into a nearby classroom, dropped his weapon and declared he had been possessed by a spirit, according to a prosecutor.

“I ruined my life; all is finished,” the teenager said to another teacher in the nearby classroom, according to the state prosecutor overseeing the case, Jérôme Bourrier.

The killing occurred on Wednesday morning at a private Catholic high school in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a resort town in southwestern France. The teacher, Agnès Lassalle, died on site, after colleagues and paramedics tried to stem the bleeding from a deep wound, which severed her aorta and punctured her right lung.

The attack rocked the town and set off alarms across France, still reeling from the beheading of another teacher, Samuel Paty, by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee and Islamist more than two years earlier.

Mr. Bourrier, who quickly ruled out any link to terrorism in this case, said he intended to charge the teenager with premeditated murder and keep him in detention.

The preliminary findings of an investigation have painted a portrait of a troubled, socially awkward teenager who had been bullied at a previous school and attempted suicide in October.

Mr. Bourrier said the student, whom he described as bright and hard-working, had been upset about a low grade in Spanish from Ms. Lassalle. He also said the teenager had told him about an argument with a classmate the day before, and how he planned to stab the teacher in front of the classmate.

The student also claimed to have been haunted by a small voice “he described as selfish, manipulative, egocentric, that incited him to do evil,” the prosecutor added. A preliminary psychiatric assessment by his office, however, ruled out schizophrenia and other serious mental illness, and diagnosed the boy with anxiety that “could have impaired his judgment,” as well as “elements of depression.”

The student has not been identified because he is a minor, and it is unclear if he has legal representation. He will undergo a more in-depth clinical assessment, Mr. Bourrier said.

People in the small upscale seaside town near the Spanish border remained in shock, hunting for any foreboding signs they might have missed, but Mr. Bourrier said there had been none. The student was not known to the police or children’s services.

Students and teachers at schools across France stood for a moment of silence on Thursday in remembrance of Ms. Lassalle, who had taught at the school for decades and was described as caring, prepared and dedicated to her students. She leaves behind a partner.

“Today, like yesterday, is a time of remembrance, a time of emotion and a time of national solidarity,” the French education minister, Pap Ndiaye, told students at another school.

The school where the stabbing took place, St. Thomas d’Aquin, has a reputation for academic excellence, educating students beginning in the French equivalent of sixth grade. It is in the middle of the vacation town, historically known as the site of King Louis XIV’s wedding to his first wife, Maria Theresa of Spain.

Mr. Bourrier said the student had taken the knife from his father’s kitchen and packed it in his bag the previous evening. During the morning Spanish class, he went to the classroom door, locked it and then unveiled the knife, which had been wrapped in paper towel, the prosecutor said. The student then stabbed Ms. Lassalle with one “violent” stroke, Mr. Bourrier said.

Other students fled in terror from the classroom, and two other teachers persuaded the teenager to drop the knife, he said.

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