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School Ghoul

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He may not be Freddy Krueger of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" fame or Jason of the never-ending "Friday the 13th" films, but for some high-school students in suburban Atlanta, he'll do just fine.

He's "The Creeper," a mysterious nocturnal vandal who has broken into two DeKalb County high schools at least 28 times since last May. Fortunately for the students, his intentions seem less sinister than those of his celluloid counterparts: he has limited himself to burgling vending machines and pay phones.

"He hasn't taken anything so far but money," said Lieut. Gene Moss of the DeKalb County Police Department.

Nevertheless, "The Creeper" has developed a cult following among students at Clarkston and nearby Lakeside High School, where a police search for him delayed classes for two hours one morning last month.

"They aren't terrified at all," JoAnn Williams-West, assistant principal at Lakeside High School, said of her pupils.

In fact, Ms. Williams-West said, students have begun ascribing some unlikely crimes to "The Creeper."

"Students are saying, 'The Creeper

stole my homework,' or 'The Creeper took my books from my locker,"' she said.

The Lakeside Parent-Teachers Association has also contributed to the lighthearted atmosphere, selling T-shirts with the thief's nickname emblazoned on the front.

"If he's going to make some money off us, we're going to make some money off him," Terry Morris, co-president of the p.t.a., told The Atlanta Constitution.

Lieut. Moss, who is taking the incidents a bit more seriously, said police are proceeding "aggressively" with their investigation.

According to Mr. Moss, the suspect is believed to be a Hispanic male, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall. His alleged crimes--vandalizing soda machines and pay phones, looting petty-cash drawers and the tin can beside the coffeepot in the teachers' lounge--carry a sentence of 1 to 20 years, Lieut. Moss said.

He said the police do not believe "The Creeper" is dangerous, although he has shown an uncanny ability to elude the school's motion-triggered alarm systems.

Reports that he has stolen students' homework assignments, he added, remain unconfirmed.--mn

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