Family left with grief, questions

Father held in stabbing of son was schizophrenic, the victim's uncle says

April 29, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz and Erika Niedowski | Julie Bykowicz and Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

George O'Hara had a loving relationship with his children, grieving relatives said yesterday as they tried to comprehend how the Baltimore County youngsters' visit to him in Philadelphia could have ended with the father in jail, accused of stabbing his 8-year-old son to death with a pocketknife.

Philadelphia police arrested George O'Hara, 33, whom they described as "saturated in blood," minutes after neighbors called Saturday to report hearing his son, Rory O'Hara, screaming and crying in an alley near where the father was living in Southwest Philadelphia, said Sgt. Alex Strong.

Rory and his sister, Symone, 5, were visiting their father, who recently had separated from their mother. The girl was found unharmed inside the Philadelphia residence.

Michael Johnson, 27, the boy's maternal uncle, said O'Hara, a native of Jamaica who had worked in the Baltimore area as a janitor, suffered from schizophrenia and had been prescribed medication for his condition.

"I guess sometimes he didn't take it," Johnson said. "If he missed one day taking the medication, that puts him at risk."

Johnson said O'Hara had been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment several times in the past few years. Sometimes, he said, O'Hara stayed a few days; other times, he stayed a few weeks.

Despite occasions when "he was delusional, talking about killing the devil and God telling him to kill the devil," O'Hara never physically threatened the children or his wife, Andrea O'Hara, Johnson said.

Relatives said George O'Hara sometimes baby-sat the children after he and his wife separated and that they were not scared of him.

"The kids loved and worshipped him," Johnson said. "Just like kids love their dad."

Rory and his sister had last visited their father April 20 and 21, Strong said. "They had a nice time, so they asked their mother if they could come up again Friday."

The group arrived at the residence shortly before midnight, Strong said. Johnson said O'Hara had been staying there with his brother for a few months.

`We have no idea'

Andrea O'Hara would not comment when reached by phone in Philadelphia yesterday, but her mother said George O'Hara gave no indication of emotional or physical problems when the children arrived.

"We have no idea what happened," said Vashtine Johnson, the children's maternal grandmother.

Police said Rory appeared to have been stabbed repeatedly in the back, neck, chest and arms. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hearing set for May 8

The father is being held without bond in Philadelphia. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 8, police said.

Rory O'Hara was a "normal 8-year-old" who loved soccer and basketball, Pokemon and the Power Rangers, his grandmother said. "He was sweet and social - very outgoing and intellectual."

Possibly inspired by his accountant mother, Rory excelled at math and was planning to attend a summer math camp, Vashtine Johnson said. His uncle said the third-grader was about to be moved into an advanced math class.

`He was very smart'

"He was going to be something in life," Michael Johnson said. "He was very smart. He was going to be somebody who made a difference. He could have been a doctor."

Andrea O'Hara, also a native of Jamaica, met her future husband while she was in school at Morgan State University, Michael Johnson said. After Rory was born in Baltimore, the couple moved to New York, got married, then moved back in the mid-1990s, he said.

It was after the couple returned to Baltimore, Michael Johnson said, that he noticed George O'Hara's mental problems.

The uncle sat on a floral-print couch in the living room of his sister's house on Charing Cross Road west of the city line.

Rory's bike was in the corner.

The uncle said he wished George O'Hara had gotten better medical treatment.

"He should have been put away long before [now]," he said, "because he was just going downhill. He shouldn't have been in society."

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