Teen who set fire to parents' homes to receive mental health evaluation

Lawyers agree blazes were cries for help and parental support

October 20, 2005|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL | ANDREA F. SIEGEL,SUN REPORTER

After an upset Arnold teenager set fire to his family's home last spring while his parents were at church, they bailed him out of jail and took him to the family's new apartment.

His father went to authorities and contended that his son's alleged confession - that he set the fire because he thought his parents favored his older brother - must have been an error, an Anne Arundel County prosecutor said.

Three months later, the teenager left home alone again after setting the apartment ablaze. He carried a pillowcase of his belongings with him and stashed other possessions in nearby woods.

Both fires, the first causing thousands of dollars in damage and the second damaging the apartment, were set using ordinary household items, including paper and towels, prosecutors said.

And both, the prosecutor and defense lawyer say, were a quiet youth's cry for help, with the case demonstrating parental care and support for a child.

Yesterday, as his parents somberly watched, Taye Willie Lynn, 19, in drab green jail garb, pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to two counts of arson and was to be released to them for an emergency mental health examination with an eye toward in-patient treatment. If not admitted, he will go on house arrest at his parents' temporary dwelling in Glen Burnie and, perhaps in a few weeks, back to the family home now nearly rebuilt after the first fire.

"I just need help," Lynn told Judge Joseph P. Manck, sometimes trembling slightly during the brief proceeding.

"I know you want help, and myself and your parents and your attorney want to get you that help," Manck said.

The emergency evaluation - a different type of examination than the one last month that found Lynn was competent to stand trial - will explore whether Lynn is a danger to himself or others and look into his mental health needs, Assistant State's Attorney Warren W. Davis III said.

The judge sentenced Lynn to two consecutive three-year prison terms plus a total of 10 years' probation. All but one year of house arrest was suspended, and Manck said that when arrangements for treatment are made, he will adjust the sentences for first- and second-degree arson.

"You're going to go home with your mom and dad," Manck reassured Lynn.

Davis said Lynn told arson investigators he set the first fire on April 24 "to show his parents how much he was hurting."

Shortly after the July 3 blaze started at the apartment where the family was staying, Lynn, toting a pillowcase of CDs, asked a worker driving a golf cart at the Bay Hills Golf Club for a ride.

When she pointed out firetrucks racing by, Davis told the judge that Lynn responded: "Fire? I didn't start any fire." Lynn was arrested a short time later.

John H. Robinson III, the teenager's lawyer, said that Lynn's parents, Darnell and Tillie Lynn, were committed to ensuring that he receives psychological care. He said the former Anne Arundel Community College student had no criminal past.

"The parents are very supportive of their child," Robinson said. "They want only the best for him."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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