Picture painted of angry child

Boy, 12, is charged in stabbing deaths of mother, brother

April 25, 2006|By MELISSA HARRIS | MELISSA HARRIS,SUN REPORTER

FORESTVILLE -- Twelve hours after Tiffany Myers told her son's best friend to leave her family's apartment for cursing, he returned carrying a duffel bag packed with clothes, as he often did when he would run away from home. This time, however, the 12-year-old boy - known for being tough and short-tempered - stood at her door crying.

He said that his mother and 9-year-old brother were dead in their second-floor, garden-style apartment less than a mile away.

Myers called Prince George's County police about 10:30 a.m. Sunday and then flagged down officers as she headed to the nearby Penn Mar apartment complex in Forestville, where officers confirmed the deaths - and later arrested the 12-year-old, charging him as a juvenile.

The boy, whose name The Sun is withholding because he is a juvenile, is accused of first-degree murder in the stabbing and beating deaths of his mother, Katrina Denise Powe, 31, and brother, Mystery Toma Hillian. Prince George's police have described the incident as a "domestic dispute that turned deadly."

Yesterday, a county judge ordered the boy held at Boys Village juvenile facility in Cheltenham until his next hearing May 15. The judge also ordered a psychological evaluation for the boy.

Prosecutors said the 12-year-old's father was on his way to Maryland yesterday from North Carolina. No relatives attended the boy's hearing.

In a series of interviews yesterday, neighbors, friends and classmates of the boy painted a picture of a troubled sixth-grader who was often in fights and who helped to organize a "gang" at Benjamin D. Foulois Elementary School, which he and his brother attended.

Kel Taylor, a 16-year-old neighbor, said he witnessed the boy launch fist-fights with two people. Taylor said he once watched the boy throw a basketball at an older woman. When one of Taylor's friends chided him for it, the 12-year-old punched him.

"He told me that he had a gun, a bat and an ax," Taylor said. "We thought he was talking just to scare us, and he was definitely not scared to fight you. ... He would say, `I'm crazy. Don't mess with me.'"

Home conditions

Taylor, who attends Suitland High School, said that he went to the younger boy's apartment once to play a video game and saw that the place was strewn with soda cans and bottles. He, as well as Myers, said that Katrina Powe was rarely home. Myers said she worked at a hotel.

Foulois Elementary sixth-graders Tyra Mitchell and Nishawn Rowland said that the suspect and another boy led the "All About Money" gang at the school until school officials cracked down.

"Everybody knew him and everybody knew of his temper," said Melody Harrod, 36, Tyra Mitchell's mother. Still, she said, "he had a lot of friends and was very popular."

But Myers also said that she believed the boy had suffered physical abuse at home. She said she had seen Katrina Powe beat her son. One time he arrived at her doorstep with his nose bleeding and lip split open, claiming that his mother had hit him with a frying pan.

Yesterday, police gave few details about the killings but confirmed that the boy implicated himself. Lt. Terence Sheppard said that Myers called them Sunday morning to report that the boy was at her apartment saying that his mother and brother were dead.

Parent's account

Myers said she has spoken with the boy twice since he was brought in by police- once on the phone and once face-to-face - and that he described in detail what happened after being told to leave her apartment Saturday night.

According to Myers' account - which police have not confirmed - the 12-year-old said he returned home to an argument with his mother, who was angry that her elder son had come home from a birthday party at Myers' place after his younger brother.

Myers said the 12-year-old told her that the argument turned violent, and that as he fumed in his room, his younger brother taunted him. Myers said the boy told her that he snapped, stabbing his brother and then his mother with a long knife that he kept under his bed.

"He says that he sees his brother's face all the time, and that he is very sorry for killing his brother," Myers said. "But he wouldn't change what he did to his mother."

At 12, the defendant is believed to be one of the youngest ever charged with homicide in Maryland. Children younger than age 14 cannot be charged with homicide as adults in Maryland and are not be eligible for the death penalty, said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman with the office of the county state's attorney.

Anger problems

Dr. Kenneth Rogers, a University of Maryland psychiatrist who teaches at the university's School of Medicine and specializes in treating adolescents, said that if a child has anger problems and is impulsive, "it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that an altercation spins out of control."

Myers, who lives in the nearby Holly Hill condominiums, said that it was common for her son's friend to show up at her house at all hours of the night - always with a duffel bag filled with clothes, food and juice.

"The saddest moment for me was when his mother put him out once in the middle of the night and he showed up at my door wearing nothing but a T-shirt and underwear in the pouring rain," Myers said. "He didn't even have shoes on."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Larry Carson and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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