Teen sentenced to at least one year in youth prison
By HOLLY HUFFMAN
Eagle Staff Writer
A College Station Middle School student who brought a gun to school and etched a hit list on his closet door was sentenced Thursday to at least one year in a Texas Youth Commission prison.
The 13-year-old embraced his parents and broke into sobs after District Judge Rick Davis read his punishment. After 12 months, his release will depend on how quickly he completes a set of reform programs. He could be held until he is 21.
Davis, who served as the boy’s football coach in 1998, said he felt a radical intervention was necessary because the child’s behavior had “escalated in a very bad way.”
He referred to the closet doors, both of which had been brought into the courtroom. Witnesses testified a “kill list” had been carved into one of the doors and a Superman emblem had been etched into the other.
The teen’s parents, both administrators at Texas A&M University, sanded down and repainted the closet doors shortly after their son’s arrest, the mother testified Thursday.
Symbolism regarding those doors occurred to Davis early Thursday, he said, asking the teen to think about why he opted to open a door which represents hatred and evil, rather than the one that represented everything good.
“It seems like you’ve chosen the wrong door,” Davis said. “It’s not too late for you to turn around and come back.”
Prosecutors argued throughout the four-day hearing that both the boy and the community would be best served by placing him in a prison for juvenile offenders.
The defense asked for intensive probation, urging Davis not to punish the child for a crime that never happened.
Bryan lawyer Wes Hall, who represented the teen, argued that his client was simply headed down the wrong path and needed intervention. Probation is an appropriate punishment to help turn the child’s behavior around, he said.
“[He] is not a bad kid in the sense of being incorrigible,” an emotional Hall said as his voice quivered and tears streamed down his face during closing arguments. “He’s a good kid that did something very stupid.”
Hall said he was disappointed in the outcome, but he knew at the start of the trial that placement with the Texas Youth Commission was a “real possibility.”
Prosecutors Katie Peterson and Shane Phelps said they feel the boy’s sentencing sends a strong message to the community and lets residents know safety in the schools is paramount.
Phelps said during the hearing that the boy — described by witnesses as smart, popular and athletic — had been characterized as the “Pied Piper of the middle school.”
“If he is the leader and they are following him, that’s scary,” he said.
The child’s mother was the only witness called to testify Thursday. She testified for three hours, describing how her son became increasingly angry and resistant to discipline during the past year. She said he did not respond to efforts to provide him with counseling and a safe, supportive environment.
He was suspended twice from school, stole $500 and then another $1,500 from their safe, she said. And he took their car during a failed runaway attempt with his girlfriend, she said. When talking on the phone, he sometimes shouted out fighting words — such as “Take this!” — to give friends the impression he was beating his parents, she testified.
She said she did not remember when she first learned her son had a list of names etched on his closet door. When she was told of the list, she said she did not question her son because “it wasn’t a concern to me.”
• Holly Huffman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.