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      Teen pleads in Horry County school shooting

      Christian Helms appearing in an Horry County courtroom with his lawyer Russell Long. / FILE

      CONWAY, S.C. ( WPDE , AP) -- A former student has pleaded to guilty charges in the discovery of explosive devices at Socastee High School last year.

      The 15-year-old boy entered an Alford plea on Monday to charges of attempted murder for shooting at a school resource officer. An Alford plea does not admit guilty, but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction.

      He pleaded guilty to two counts of transporting or possession parts of a destructive device.

      The last-minute plea took Assistant 15th Circuit Solicitor Alicia Richardson by surprise.

      "We were fully prepared to go to trial, had our witnesses all lined up, so I was surprised, but it's always the defendant's prerogative if he decides to enter a plea of guilty," Richardson said.

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      The boy is to be sentenced Wednesday. Prosecutor Alicia Richardson says the former student faces up to 30 years in prison on the attempted murder charge and between two and 15 years in prison on the explosives charges.

      Richardson said she's glad Helms accepted responsibility for his actions and a trial can be avoided.

      "It does save time. We had witnesses who were coming from Columbia and other parts of the state, and this does prevent them from having to travel."

      The boy's attorney, Russell Long, says the plea will help the youngster move to the next stage of his life.

      (WPDE, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)