Prosecutor to study teen killers

Patterns of truancy, runaways emerge as number of homicides by young people doubles

November 23, 2006|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN REPORTER

This week, as two teenagers made court appearances in the stabbing death of a teenage girl at a light rail stop, the city state's attorney launched a study of young killers.

A total of 21 people younger than age 18 have been charged in city killings this year -- nearly double the number last year. Eight are 15-year-olds, according to a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.

This week, 17-year-old Donavan T. White was charged with using a tree branch to fatally beat a 39-year-old man sleeping on a bench Oct. 22 in West Baltimore.

And Lataye S. King, a 16-year-old high school dropout, and Kendrick McCain, a 15-year-old eighth-grader, were held without bail on charges of first-degree murder. They are accused of stabbing 17-year-old Nicole Edmonds to steal her cell phone as she made her way home from her job at Wendy's.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has asked employees in her office's juvenile division to evaluate the backgrounds of White, King, McCain and other young defendants by looking at their juvenile and educational records.

The goal, Jessamy said in a statement, is "to stop this wave of violence and victimization to our fragile, youthful generation."

Spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns said yesterday that the study is to be completed quickly. She said the evaluation began yesterday and, so far, shows themes of truancy and runaway. About half the young defendants had been deemed children in need of assistance by the court, she said.

Some, Burns said, are dropping out of middle school. She said Jessamy plans to meet soon with city schools interim Chief Executive Officer Charlene Cooper Boston. Jessamy also will speak with social services workers and police officials as part of the study, Burns said.

"This is really an information-gathering exercise," Burns said. "We need to see if there's something we're missing."

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