BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) -- A teacher plans to aggressively fight charges that he abducted a student from another school, then choked her and broke her neck before leaving her for dead in a densely wooded park where she was found more than a day later, his attorney said.
Justin Kuehn said Wednesday that Samson Shelton, charged last weekend after authorities found 17-year-old Ashley Reeves clinging to life in the park, would plead not guilty when arraigned, sometime after a grand jury is expected to take up the matter.
"We want people to know we plan to fight this," Kuehn said.
Shelton, 26, of Smithton, remained jailed Thursday on $1 million bond and under suicide watch on two counts of attempted murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
Reeves remained in serious condition Thursday at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Her family has declined to discuss her prognosis, though one of the girl's former teachers said she'd been told the teenager's spinal cord had not been severed.
"She's a survivor," Denise Pranger, who had been Reeves' third-grade teacher, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a story Thursday, four days after Pranger visited the girl in the hospital. "She's a strong girl, but she'll have a lot to deal with."
Investigators have said that Shelton and Reeves had a "relationship." Authorities have not revealed what they suspect motivated Shelton -- driver's ed and physical education teacher at the high school in tiny Freeburg -- to try to kill Reeves, a junior at Columbia (Ill.) High School.
Shelton remained under suicide watch at the St. Clair County jail here Thursday as "just a precaution," with a jail worker checking his well-being every 15 minutes, Sheriff Mearl Justus said. Within days, a psychiatrist was expected to examine Shelton and tell administrators whether such monitoring needs to continue, Justus said.
Kuehn, who did not immediately return telephone messages left Thursday by The Associated Press, said Wednesday he planned to push for a reduction of Shelton's bond and a change of venue.
School officials have said Shelton began his teaching career at a school in Reeves' hometown of Millstadt during the 2001-02 school year, meeting Reeves when she was a seventh-grader. Since meeting again in February at St. Louis' Mardi Gras, Reeves and Shelton reportedly often got together to play basketball.
Reeves had been missing since leaving her home the afternoon of April 27 for a job interview in Belleville; the Jeep she'd been driving was found eight hours later in a Belleville park, authorities said. Early Saturday, Shelton accompanied investigators to another Belleville park, where Reeves was found.
The criminal complaint alleges that Reeves tried to strangle Reeves with a belt and used "his forearm with such force as to break the neck of Ashley Reeves."
Shelton's case will be presented to a St. Clair County grand jury, though exactly when remained unclear Thursday, a spokeswoman for that county's prosecutor's office said.