A reluctant witness due at DeLong murder trial

August 21, 1994|By Christine Stapleton | Christine Stapleton,Special to The Sun

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- When attorneys for Jason Aaron DeLong try to convince a jury that the teen-ager was insane when he stabbed his mother and her friend to death last year, a key witness will be his father, Donald DeLong.

The elder Mr. DeLong tried unsuccessfully last week to avoid going to Maryland for the first-degree murder trial, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

He asked a Florida Circuit Court to excuse him from being subpoenaed on the grounds that he is not a material witness in the case and that his absence from his business in Jupiter for what promises to be a two-week trial would be a hardship.

Judge Richard Burk was sympathetic but found no reason to interfere with the subpoena.

"This is not exactly the way I wanted to see my son for the last time," Mr. DeLong said after the Florida hearing Friday. "The system has done nothing right for this kid."

Besides Mr. DeLong, three teachers from Jupiter High School will testify at the trial. Defense attorneys filed court papers saying Mr. DeLong and the teachers can offer critical testimony about Jason's neglected upbringing.

"If they had just spent one-tenth of what they're going to spend hospitalizing him for the rest of his life, this could have been avoided," Mr. DeLong said.

"Nobody wanted to spend the money to put him into the programs that he needed. . . . Now they're asking me to come up there to help them put him in an insane asylum for the rest of his life."

Mr. DeLong, who owns a garage and repairs air conditioners, reluctantly agreed to testify after Judge Burk denied his hardship claim. Mr. DeLong argued that closing his business during the hottest days of the year to go to Maryland to testify would impose a financial hardship on his family.

Judge Burk sympathized and asked Jason DeLong's attorneys to fly Mr. DeLong to Maryland and return him as quickly as possible.

Police found the bodies of Jason DeLong's mother, Cathryn Brace Farrar, and her boyfriend, George William Wahl, in Ms. Farrar's Westminster apartment in August 1993. The pair had been stabbed repeatedly four days earlier -- Ms. Farrar more than 80 times and Mr. Wahl more than 40 times.

Jason DeLong, 19, and his girlfriend, Sara Elizabeth Citroni, 18, were arrested a few days later at a gas station near his father's home in Jupiter and were charged in the slayings.

Citroni pleaded guilty to the killings last month and is to be sentenced next month to no more than two consecutive life terms.

Jason DeLong's trial was scheduled to start last week, but was postponed because one of his lawyers, Luther C. West of Baltimore, was hospitalized.

Attorneys for the young man have said he was a neglected and abused child while in his mother's care after his parents separated. They eventually divorced.

His defense will focus on a claim of insanity that he will say was brought on after years of relentless physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother, Mr. West has said in interviews.

"She demonstrated no love or emotional support for Jason as a baby," the defense attorneys said in documents filed Friday to support their contention that Donald DeLong should testify. "She did not cuddle him, or touch him, or talk to him."

She was a "Satanist" and "subjected Jason to that cult's beliefs and practices," the documents said. "Jason was extremely fearful of his mother in 1980, 1981 and 1982, and did not wish to be reunited with her under any conditions."

In 1980, Donald DeLong took the boy from his ex-wife and brought him to Florida. The child, who was 6, had cigarette burns on his buttocks; the boy said his mother and her boyfriend burned him, according to court papers. Donald DeLong put his son into therapy.

In 1982, Ms. Farrar got custody through a North Carolina court.

"I spent $10,000 in 1983 fighting custody," Mr. DeLong said. "I've been fighting the system for 18 years."

Jason returned to live with him in 1991 for a little more than a year, briefly attending Jupiter High School, before going back to Maryland and his mother.

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