INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) — Police have arrested a woman who allegedly put a stolen firearm in a child’s backpack, leading to the child unknowingly taking the gun to school.
Troopers were sent to St. Bernard Regional Catholic School in White Township, Indiana County, on Sept. 17 for a report that an 11-year-old boy had a fully loaded revolver in his backpack.
According to state police, there were no reports of any threats being made, the firearm was secured without incident and the student was being cooperative. Officials believed the student didn’t know the firearm was in his backpack and only found it when he opened his backpack at school.
The teacher said the boy was “visibly distraught and shocked” when he found the gun in his backpack.
Troopers found the firearm had been reported stolen by the student’s legal guardian on Sept. 15 and the guardian had said the firearm wasn’t loaded when it was stolen.
State police allege a family member of the student — 23-year-old Riley Jayne Merlo, of Creekside, Pa. — stole the firearm from the owner’s vehicle then placed the firearm into the student’s backpack.
Merlo is facing multiple theft charges, along with charges of causing or risking catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person.
State police say she was taken into custody without incident Friday afternoon in Indiana County. She was remanded to the Indiana County Jail with bail set at $5,000.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5.