Neglected child now a man in turmoil

July 08, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

It was easy to see the wounds on Cathryn Brace Farrar and her friend George William "Billy" Wahl.

They had been stabbed repeatedly, long after either could have resisted. There was blood all over the carpet and walls of the Westminster apartment.

It is not so easy to see the wounds on Jason Aaron DeLong, emotional wounds that may have led him to kill his mother, Cathryn Farrar, last July 29.

Jason, 19, and his girlfriend, Sara Elizabeth Citroni, 18, have been in the Carroll County jail since August, charged with first-degree murder.

Today, they are to appear in a Carroll courtroom for pre-trial motions. According to court officials, Sara is expected to take a plea bargain. Sara, by most accounts, had an average, happy childhood until her mother died of cancer in 1992.

But defense attorneys will use the hearing to introduce their reasons for saying that Jason is not guilty by reason of insanity. They will say Ms. Farrar neglected her son and blocked attempts to help him, that he rarely had a stable home life and was kept from associating with other children.

"This is one whacked-out kid," says his Baltimore attorney, Luther C. West.

Jason DeLong has refused requests for interviews.

Police will not say what they believe triggered the attack, but in the months leading up to the slayings, Jason alternated between living at his mother's apartment and living on the streets for days at a time. Neighbors often heard them quarrel.

Jason apparently couldn't live with his mother and couldn't stay away.

Barring an unexpected plea bargain for Jason, a jury will have to decide whether Jason's upbringing is an acceptable reason for him to have stabbed his mentally ill mother 80 times and her friend more than 40.

Jason's parents are Donald E. DeLong, a GI who married the girl he had gotten pregnant, and Cathryn Brace DeLong, an Army brat who grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and had a previous marriage that ended before she was 17. Jason was born Dec. 13, 1974, in the military hospital at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Right after they were married, the couple, broke, was taken in by Malcom Shaw, a friend of Donald DeLong's from the Army who lived in Fayetteville. Much of this account of Jason's childhood is based on court records and Mr. Shaw's observations.

Many who could lend another perspective -- Donald DeLong; Cathryn DeLong's sisters, Stayce Cashion and Patricia DuVall; her mother, Lois Brace; and Steve Shampine, who lived with Cathryn DeLong for two or three years after her marriage to Donald DeLong broke up -- would not be be interviewed on the record.

When Jason was born, Mr. DeLong had been discharged and the couple rented a house near Mr. Shaw in Fayetteville. The couple routinely quarreled, neighbors and friends said.

Mrs. DeLong slept far into the afternoon, spent a lot of time with her Ouija board and ignored the baby. Sometimes she fed Jason a little rice. Sometimes she didn't feed him. From the house across the street, Mr. Shaw could hear Jason crying.

One afternoon, Mr. Shaw pounded on the door until Cathryn DeLong got up and let him in. Cats roamed the house, and cat feces lay on the floor. Jason was in his crib, surrounded by his own waste.

Mr. Shaw called the Cumberland County (N.C.) Department of Social Services. "I told Don I had done it," he said. "Friend or no friend, there was a little child over there."

The Social Services worker who investigated came down on Donald DeLong for failing to compel his wife to take care of the baby.

Custody battle

Donald and Cathryn DeLong quarreled, separated, reconciled, then separated permanently in 1976. In the files of the custody battle that followed is a letter by June Edmonds, another social worker who had reviewed the records:

"At 18 months, Jason was . . . developmentally retarded in that he was not walking nor trying to speak."

After the couple's last separation, Cathryn and Jason began living with Mr. Shampine, recently released from prison. Mr. DeLong moved back in with Mr. Shaw and his wife.

At 2 years old, all Jason could do was hop around the floor and make grunting noises. "I think he picked them up from the dog," Mr. Shaw said. "My son [born in 1976] walked and talked before Jason did."

The Cumberland County District Court, deciding Jason had been neglected by his mother, transferred custody to the county Department of Social Services. But Jason was never physically taken from her home.

Later, tests would show that Jason's intelligence was normal but, because of neglect, he functioned below the level of played-with, loved and cared-for children of his age.

Move to Florida

Mr. Shampine's interference with Mr. DeLong's attempts to see his son and Jason's slow development finally pushed Mr. DeLong to act, Mr. Shaw said: "I feel like Don thought he was the only hope for Jason."

On Nov. 23, 1980, Jason's father came crying to his estranged wife's house and asked if he could take his son to a birthday party.

Instead, Donald DeLong took the boy to South Florida.

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