The kid, just 13, stood in front of a judge in a black robe Tuesday in what is called “Family Court.”
This is not “family” like TV sitcoms, with apple pie after the meatloaf and homes with bright lights and stylish clothes and laughing. This kid lived in a home without electricity.
On Tuesday, he wore khaki pants that were too big and he cried and he said he has learned, has changed, after committing what is so awful to say for anyone, let alone a child.
Sexual assault. Rape.
“I have learned from my treatment; I have changed,” this kid – about 5 feet tall and maybe 120 pounds soaking wet – told the judge. “I am a joyful person, I will continue to do good. I will do my schoolwork.”
This kid clearly wanted to go home, and his mother there in the courtroom said she wanted him to go home.
But this kid would not go home.
Family Court Judge Robert Guess of Union sent the boy back to a juvenile detention home in Columbia, because he attacked a woman.
The assault happened six months before, in the apartment on Patriot Parkway off North Cherry Road, where the kid lived at the time with his mother and siblings. The apartment that had no electricity at the time, court testimony showed.
And in the early morning hours of April 28, the kid was all alone.
“Terrible circumstances,” said his lawyer, assistant public defender Stacy Coleman. “He was living in a place with no electricity and no supervision,”
The boy was alone until a set of twins – themselves barely 4 feet 6 inches tall and 75 pounds, 12 years old at the time – “snuck out” of their own apartment nearby after one parent went to sleep and another parent was at work.
The 13-year-old asked a 19-year-old woman who lived in another apartment just down the breezeway for help lighting some candles.
So the woman tried to help the kid escape the complete darkness and solitude of that apartment. For her efforts she was attacked, after physical contact that testimony showed started as wrestling and playing.
One of the twins locked the door and helped hold the woman until they saw that the older child was not “playing” anymore.
And six months later, that 13-year-old stood with tears in his eyes, hearing testimony about being left alone to survive that night in the dark before he lashed out.
All three boys pleaded guilty in September, and court-ordered mental evaluations followed for each.
The Herald is not naming the children because of their ages. The Herald is also not naming the sexual assault victim, who was not in court Tuesday. She did not have to hear lawyers and prosecutors say what happened to her.
Judge Guess ordered Tuesday that the twins, who had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of first-degree assault, must continue to live with their grandmother in Blackville.
“They have been good children,” the grandmother told the judge.
Prosecutor Whitney Payne and the twins’ lawyers explained in court that they had tried to help the victim after the incident turned violent. The twins told the other child to stop.
For the twins the judge imposed a 7 p.m. curfew, six months of probation, and they must attend positive social activities.
The grandmother, mother and father left the courtroom with the twins. A family would try to have a future.
That’s when the other child, the one testimony showed attacked the woman, was brought in.
Payne, the prosecutor, called what happened in April “a very serious incident.”
Coleman, the defense lawyer, called it “a very serious offense.”
Rape, even by a 13-year-old kid, is as serious an offense as any.
The boy pleaded guilty to assault and battery third degree, which includes a provision for improper sexual contact.
Testimony Tuesday showed that just four days before the rape, the 13-year-old was supposed to have appeared in Family Court for another case, but his family never brought him in. Police had been given a “pickup” order for him.
Four days later, they picked him up after the sexual assault. He has been in juvenile jail and juvenile homes ever since.
After the assault in April, it took police a while to even find the child’s mother, Payne said in court. The mother’s other children already had been removed from the house by authorities, Payne said.
A Department of Social Services investigation showed “indications of neglect,” testimony showed Tuesday.
However, since the arrest of the 13-year-old, his mother has found a different home with electricity and running water.
The mother cried when she told the judge, “I’m ready for him to come home.”
But Judge Guess sent the boy back to the juvenile detention home, with indefinite probation. In a mental evaluation, Guess said, the child said he “could not stop himself” during the assault.
Guess also ordered sex offender treatment, saying it was “imperative” that the 13-year-old be in a controlled environment while being treated.
“The treatment will enlighten you as how you have to behave going forward,” Guess said.
When the hearing was over, the child’s mother was upset, asking as she left the courtroom, “Why is he the only one going to stay in jail? Why are the other kids not staying in jail, and going home?”
It was because her son had just been sentenced after admitting to sexually assaulting a neighbor at age 13 while home in the middle of the night, alone and unsupervised, in an apartment without electricity.
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 firstname.lastname@example.org