Drugs not only problem
The faces are hauntingly youthful.
Cases in point:
William Kintner Jr. of Depauw, then 19, pled guilty to the Sept. 30, 1998, murder of a Corydon woman.
Arthur John Bryant Jr., then 17, convicted by a jury of murdering his stepmother in Corydon on Jan. 5, 2000.
Dominic Detrick of Corydon, then 19, pled guilty to the Aug. 4, 2000, murder of a Corydon man.
Now, a 17-year-old Elizabeth girl and three Corydon men, ages 19, 20 and 21, stand accused of murdering the girl’s foster mother in Jeffersonville. Virginia Walker, 73, was found stabbed in the back, bludgeoned and strangled in her home Tuesday morning, Nov. 19.
Sara Mills, 17, James Daily Jr., 19, Joshua Shireman, 20, and Troy Green, 21, have been charged in Clark County with the murder (see story above).
While shocking, the potential for violence is hardly surprising to the officials who deal daily with juveniles, especially in the court system.
“The general public has no conception of the number of kids and the mental issues they’ve got and the potential for violence,” said Harrison Circuit Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis, speaking in general terms, not specifically about any case.
Illegal drug use is a large part of their problems, said Liz Day, chief juvenile probation officer in juvenile court. “I think that’s one of the biggest things; all these kids have easy access to ‘you name it.’ ”
Whitis heard more than 10 juvenile cases in court Monday morning, all within two hours. The charges represented a variety of offenses, and several related to illegal drugs – one for selling, one for buying, one for using. The juveniles had been suspended from school, with expulsion only a step away.
Whitis released the boys to a parent or another relative and placed them under house arrest pending further court action.
“They would be a good candidate for an alternative school, if we had one,” the judge said.
Although plans are underway for an alternative school, its programs may not be open to students who have been expelled, either for the rest of a semester or school year, said Day.
A regional juvenile detention center would help the courts place youth in detention more readily, at a less expensive rate than what’s currently paid, she said.
But that’s only a “Band-Aid” solution, she said.
“Detention doesn’t scare these kids,” Day said. “They get back out and do the same thing again.”
Whitis, too, said a detention center alone would not help. “We don’t want to just lock these kids up,” he said. “We want to find a way to help them.”
Programs such as an adolescent alcohol and drug treatment program, coupled with support groups, might be beneficial as well as anger-management classes and affordable counseling, she said.
The Brandon House provides free counseling to teens at the Gerdon Youth Center, but there’s only one counselor, so assistance is limited.
And a successful drive by law enforcement to take drug suppliers off the streets would also help, Day said.
Sheriff-elect G. Michael Deatrick, who campaigned on a pledge to attack the drug problem in Harrison County, said he will work with the schools to determine what action should be taken.
“We can clean it out of the schoolhouses, and once we find out what’s going on with certain kids, we can start watching their activities,” Deatrick said.
And he expects to learn more ways to combat drugs from other sheriffs in Indiana’s 92 counties at a statewide conference next week.
But drug use is not likely the root of the problem.
Attorney Michael Summers, public juvenile defender in Harrison Circuit Court, said he believes a “lack of parental supervision is the biggest problem.
“That gives kids the freedom to get into a lot of different things,” Summers said. “Whatever they choose.”
Harrison County Prosecutor Ronald W. Simpson has seen crime escalate during his 16 years on the job, and he believes a breakdown in the family structure is a contributing factor, with drug use a common denominator.
“I think with the breakdown of parental authority and parental guidance, there’s no respect for others or their property,” Simpson said.
“There is a lot of selfishness and greed in the world,” he said.
Selfishness can lead to drug use as a means of “feeling happy” at any cost, and greed causes a desire to have something, to own something even if it means stealing it.
“It’s all just self, self, self,” Simpson said.
Besides murder, the four Harrison County youth face charges for allegedly assaulting, robbing and attempting to kidnap Walker’s ex-husband and friend, who lived close by, but he managed to escape.
At least three of the four have a history of trouble.
Mills was wanted on a probation violation in juvenile court for running away from her foster home, but the warrant had not been served before the alleged murder.
A warrant had also been issued in Harrison Superior Court for Daily, who had pleaded guilty to and was on probation for sexual misconduct with a minor; however, according to court records, he’d violated the terms of his probation. A warrant for his arrest was outstanding at the time of the murder.
Green was also on probation, but in compliance, for a misdemeanor in Harrison Superior Court.
Diane Harrison, chief probation officer in superior court, said while drug use is common in such cases, there are several underlying reasons for drug use.
“I think it has to do with violence that’s present in the home when they are growing up, for many of these children, and the lack of any kind of guidance from parents, whatever the family configuration might be,” Harrison said. “We are inundated by violence in society, and when you don’t have a solid home base, kids are really susceptible.”
Sometimes, both young and old alike can benefit from a change in thinking patterns, especially when there’s a lack of morals.
Harrison said the court is taking advantage of a new program, “Thinking for A Change,” now offered in Floyd County.
“We hope to start offering that program within our own department in the next year,” she said.