Teen's solicitation for murder case sent back to juvenile court system Judge says adult agencies can't give Millersville boy the treatment he needs

June 09, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge sent the case of a 14-year-old Millersville boy accused of offering another youth $100 to kill a classmate back to juvenile court yesterday.

Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. decided that the juvenile system could better meet the needs of the Old Mill Senior High student, who is learning disabled, than the overwhelmed adult criminal agencies.

"I am very concerned that the intensive agency involvement that this young man needs is lacking," Greene said, describing adult parole and probation in the county as "bursting at the seams."

The Sun has agreed not to publish the name of the boy, the youngest person to be charged as an adult with solicitation for murder in the county. He also was charged with reckless endangerment in connection with what police said was a March 26 murder-for-hire plot.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson said he would refile the charges in juvenile court this week.

In circuit court, a conviction for solicitation for murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. But in juvenile court, authorities determine whether the child is delinquent rather than convicting him or her; if they find him delinquent, they then decide what combination of treatment and punishment to impose. Juvenile authorities can maintain control of a child's case until he or she turns 21, even though a person is considered an adult at 18.

After the court hearing, Stephen P. Bourexis, attorney for the boy's family, said "their prayers have been answered."

His witnesses, a psychologist and Department of Juvenile Justice social worker, painted a portrait of a child who is naive and not hostile, an intelligent ninth-grader whose emotions are more like those of a fourth-grader. They described a boy guided and guarded by his parents, but unable to cope socially when surrounded by other teen-agers.

Jennifer Beard, the social worker, said the boy is "severely learning disabled" in that he cannot understand and communicate appropriately.

"He is very honest, almost too honest. He tells you everything, he doesn't have the defenses children his age usually have," she said, explaining that he didn't hesitate, even when lying would have been in his best interest.

She said she would recommend a program that keeps him at home. He has no juvenile criminal record and he has complied with all house arrest rules since March. But whether he will be sent to a residential school, a juvenile institution or kept home will be decided in court, if he is found delinquent.

At school, the youth is a Level IV disabled student, meaning he can be in some regular classes with special assistance. But Beard said the county schools have been unable to meet his needs and recommended placing him in a higher-level program in which he would be in mostly small, self-contained classes with therapists readily available, either in a public or private school.

The school system determined that the murder-for-hire incident arose from his learning disability. The boy is being schooled by county teachers at home, Bourexis said.

Bergeson, who presented no witnesses, said the woman who heard part of the solicitation conversation described the boy as "stone-cold serious," while Bourexis downplayed the boy's intentions.

"All it took in this case for it be much more serious than it was, was for someone to say, 'Yes, I'll take you up on that,' " Bergeson said.

Outside the courtroom, Bourexis said he understood why an adult would be "hypervigilant" when it comes to threats of violence, given fatal school shootings elsewhere.

According to county police, on March 26 the boy allegedly offered a 14-year-old youth from Glen Burnie $100 to kill a 16-year-old classmate, also of Glen Burnie. Police said the Millersville boy wanted the intended victim dead because he had been talking too much in a class.

The Glen Burnie 14-year-old returned to Old Mill High School the next day, demanded $500 and threatened to tell school authorities of the plan, police said. That afternoon, the second boy told a school counselor. Both teen-agers were arrested the next Monday.

The second boy was charged with extortion. That case has not yet been heard in juvenile court, prosecutors said.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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