Father testifies for defense

August 30, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Before Donald DeLong sent his son Jason back to Maryland, he gave him a 3-inch, folding, leather-working knife as a going-away present.

"I wanted him to get involved in working with his hands," the elder Mr. DeLong recalled yesterday from the stand during his son's first-degree murder trial in Carroll Circuit Court in Westminster.

Prosecutors contend that the ivory-colored knife -- which has never been found -- was one of two weapons used in the fatal stabbings of Jason DeLong's mother, Cathryn Brace Farrar, and her boyfriend, George William Wahl, at her Westminster apartment last summer.

Donald DeLong was the first witness called by the defense in the trial, which enters its second week today.

He spent nearly six hours on the stand testifying about his relationship with his son during the time Jason DeLong lived with him in Florida.

Jason Aaron DeLong, 19, and Sara Citroni, 18 -- his girlfriend of one week -- were charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the July 29, 1993, killings.

Citroni pleaded guilty to the slayings last month.

Jason DeLong has pleaded innocent and not criminally responsible because of insanity.

Much of Jason DeLong's defense is a contention that he was neglected, abused and unloved by his mother.

Last week, lead defense attorney Luther C. West told the jury of nine women and three men that he would prove his client was "driven crazy" by Ms. Farrar.

The elder Mr. DeLong acknowledged that his marriage to Jason's mother was tumultuous.

He also said he spent little time with his son when he was infant.

In November 1980, Donald DeLong took his son from Ms. Farrar's home in North Carolina and moved him to Florida.

While he was there, Mr. DeLong testified, Jason was placed in special-education classes and underwent counseling.

Mr. DeLong testified that his son was beginning to adjust to life with him and his new family.

Then, in 1983, a North Carolina judge determined that Ms. Farrar should have custody of Jason, despite findings of neglect by the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.

That decision changed all their lives forever, Mr. DeLong said.

Mr. DeLong was given another chance with Jason for about 15 months in 1991 and 1992.

Jason DeLong was sent to his father's home in Jupiter, Fla., and enrolled in high school there.

His behavior soon deteriorated, his father said.

He was caught drunk at school; a friend of his ransacked his father's house while the family was on vacation.

'Jason liked horror novels'

Jason goaded a friend to make daily threatening phone calls to his father's house after he was sent back to Maryland, Mr. DeLong testified. He also recalled a letter he wrote to school officials about a short story Jason had written in 1991.

Reading from a copy of the letter, Mr. DeLong said, "Jason liked horror novels and TV shows.

"He once wrote a story about stalking through a house at night with a knife when two people are sleeping."

He feels he failed his son

Mr. West asked Mr. DeLong if he thought he had failed his son.

"When I left North Carolina, I did it because I wanted a fresh start, for myself and for Jason," Mr. DeLong testified.

"As we were driving away, I promised him he would never, never have to go back and live in the situation he was in before.

"And in 1983, they took it away. And I failed."

A father's tearful walk

The elder Mr. DeLong -- who had been trying to make eye contact with his son all day -- broke down and began to sob.

He was asked a few more questions before he was excused.

He slowly walked away from the stand, then, turning on his way out, went to his son and placed his hand on Jason's shoulder.

He sobbed all the way out the door and to the courthouse steps.

Mr. DeLong testified that he had not talked with his son since 1991.

A long-delayed visit

After his ordeal on the stand, the elder Mr. DeLong walked toward the Carroll County Detention Center for the long-delayed visit.

The trial is to continue today.

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