Former student faces gun trial as juvenile

Teen accused of giving pistol to adult caretaker

July 25, 2006|By LIZ F. KAY | LIZ F. KAY,SUN REPORTER

.. A former Catonsville High School special-education student accused of stealing a gun and bringing it to school will be tried in juvenile court, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.

Steven A. Cearfoss, 17, of Catonsville was charged with possession of a deadly weapon on school property, burglary and other offenses in December, according to court records.

Charging documents show that he is accused of taking a .25-caliber Colt pistol from his grandfather's home and giving it to his personal assistant in November. Cearfoss, who has learning and other disabilities, was assigned a personal assistant.

The assistant, Anthony Vernon Creek of Baltimore, was also charged in December with possession of a deadly weapon in a school, handgun possession and possession of a handgun after being convicted of a felony, police said. In 1999, he had been convicted of armed robbery and other offenses in Baltimore and served five years.

According to charging documents, Cearfoss brought the gun to school and gave it to Creek.

Creek's attorney, Margaret Mead, did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Cearfoss' attorney, Gertrude C. Bartel, told Judge Dana M. Levitz that Cearfoss' personal assistant "took every advantage" of the student's youth, mental health problems and disabilities.

The Baltimore County school system contracts with outside agencies for personal-assistant services. No one from Essential Care Inc., which employed Creek, returned calls for comment yesterday.

School spokeswoman Kara Calder said last night that she did not know whether the county school system still contracts with the company.

Essential Care had a three-year contract with the county school system that expired in 2005 but was renewed for one year. That extension expired June 30, according to a letter from the company to the school system.

An Essential Care document describing the personal-assistant job says each aide "is given a daily routine to follow with each student" including lifting and assisting on and off the school bus.

The contract stated that all personal assistants are required to complete background checks and fingerprinting, a physical and other criteria.

Bartel said during the hearing that Cearfoss had been expelled from school and was working full time.

Students who take a firearm onto school property face a one-year suspension, according to the student handbook for Baltimore County public schools.

Levitz said during the hearing that Cearfoss has a learning disability and has taken medication, including lithium, "from an early age" for mental health. He's also had extensive therapy, including two admissions to Sheppard Pratt.

Cearfoss had never been admitted to a juvenile facility, Levitz said.

The state Department of Juvenile Justice recommended that his case be handled in juvenile court, where the adjudication will remain sealed.

"They believe he would benefit in being handled as a juvenile instead of an adult," the judge said.

Cearfoss is expected to be subpoenaed to testify against Anthony Creek when the trial of the personal assistant begins Sept. 14, Bartel said yesterday afternoon.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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