Troubled 11-Year-Old Charged in Fire Death
BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) _ At age 11, Scott James had been in and out of special schools. His mother deemed him uncontrollable and tried for two months to have him placed in state custody, but state officials refused.
Protective custody, the state said, is for children who are abused or abandoned, not those with behavior problems that require treatment. Today, Scott is in state custody - accused of murder.
Scott is confined at the Maine Youth Center in South Portland, accused of setting a New Year’s Eve fire at a six-unit apartment building in Biddeford that killed a 53-year-old man.
Authorities have not decided whether the boy will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.
Officials who deal with emotionally troubled youngsters say Scott is one of many children who need help but cannot get it because there are not enough resources to go around.
Roger Raymond, Biddeford’s special education director, said he contacted the state Department of Human Services two months ago because he feared Scott was at risk.
″It’s terrible what happened,″ Raymond said. ″It goes without saying, we don’t have the resources available for kids who are in need of such services. And I doubt that his situation is unique.″
After a three-hour detention hearing Tuesday, District Court Judge Robert Crowley found probable cause for a felony murder charge stemming from the fire death of Raymond R. Lauzon. Assistant Attorney General Eric Wright said the boy must appear Jan. 17 in District Court.
Felony murder is a homicide that occurs during the commission of a felony, in this case arson, in which someone’s death is a reasonably foreseeable result.
Should Scott be tried as a juvenile and convicted, he could remain in the custody of the state until he is 21 or 22 years old. If tried for murder as an adult, he would face a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum life term.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Scott’s 8-year-old brother, Jason, told the court that the two boys had been visiting Lauzon and were told to leave when the older boy was caught trying to steal money from Lauzon’s bedroom.
Jason said he walked away but Scott lingered around the apartment building before joining him later.
In interviews and court testimony, juvenile caseworkers, school officials and Scott’s mother, Janet Sullivan, portrayed him as an emotionally troubled youngster who had been placed in three special schools but remained uncontrollable.
For the past three months he had run away about once a week from Ms. Sullivan, 31, who is divorced, jobless and on welfare, according to testimony.
A spokesman at the Department of Human Services said Scott’s problems were not so severe that he needed to be placed in a foster home or residential treatment center.
Peter Walsh, director of the Bureau of Social Services, said the department ″never found this child to be in jeopardy and needing his relationship with his parent severed.″