Page 6


A Migrant Worker’s Son Goes Bad INNOCENCE TO ARSON The road from infant innocence to grand arson at 14 was short and tragic for a boy his parentS could not handle, the schools failed, and Gatesville gave up. He came from a rural Texas county, the fourth of eight children. The mother was frail and mentally di s t u r b e d; she had blackouts, was unstable, could not discipline the children. The father, a man of average intelligence, worked as a common laborer and was away from home long hours. Both parents were illiterate, but the f a the r, although suffering from an operation which removed most of his stomach, “seems to do the very best he can under the circumstances.” The boy, a mental defective with an IQ of 59, was the beneficiary, or the victim, as one wishes to view it, of “social promotion,” promotion in school for social reasons although he was not doing the work at grade level. He was, the records say, bright enough, but disturbed mentally; he advanced to the fourth grade but could not do good kindergarten or first grade work. He had “a vivid imagination,” though, and stole money and watches and set fire to a storage closet and an apartment building. Therefore, in 1956, at the age of 12 years and nine days, he was committed to Gatesville for arson. He was five feet three inches tall with brown hair and brown eyes. Three months later a case worker recorded, “It is felt that the school is not helping this youth very much,” and he was soon released. He had occasion to enter a certain private home, and early in 1958 he was returned to Gatesville for stealing a watch there. A month later, at the age of 13, he was placed in seclusion at “California Hall,” the lockup for intransigent boys at Gatesville, for engaging in sex play with another boy. The remarks of the caseworkers subsequently are interesting: “He says he wants to go home but there is a great deal of indifference in his attitude. He has received only two letters in two months. This is a lonely child.” “This boy is severely limited in many ways and will never make a very adequate adjustment anywhere, whether he comes or goes.” His “intelligence is too high to qualify him for a school for mentally retarded and too low to permit him to adjust in a free society, given his parents.” \(The state schools for mentally retarded will not accept children with IQ’s of The boy is a pathological liar. He needs “long range supervision.” But release is recommended because “he seems to be doing about as well as one could expect, given his intellectual abilities.” He was released on July 30, 1958, six months after his admission, to return to the situation at home. One night last month the boy was being beaten by his father. The man was using a belt, and he was hitting the boy with the buckle. Vowing vengeance, the boy decided to burn something down. The only place he could think of was a furniture store where he knew one of the employees. \(So says a Gatesville On January 5, 1959, the boy admitted setting the fire, which burned the store down completely and spread to two adjacent stores before it could be put out. The damage totaled $300,000. On January 23, 1959, the authorities, saying they had no choice and were acting “to protect society,” returned the boy to Gatesville for the third time. He is there now. He will not be 15 until next November. The case that can be made, say, by a newspaper headline, against an Austin boy now in Gatesville would alarm any citizen. But it is a longer story than a headline can tell. He was too little for his age and his mother over loved him. He has five brothers and five sisters. His father finished the eighth grade and earns a living as a migrant laborer, working in the fields in Michigan and returning to Austin by way of the West Texas cotton fields. When he is in Austin, he works as a carpenter’s helper. The mother does not read or write English and has tuberculosis. The family home is a five room house, well furnished, with modern plumbing and enough yard space for the children. But a caseworker once remarked, “The family seems to live in fear of the law.” The boy attended school and catechism at a Catholic Church regularly. The highest grade he attained, however, was the fourth grade, in 1955. He has an average intelligence. Between his first known offense, shoplifting, and his last, kidnapping, the boy was growing from the age of 11 to the age of 16. Step by step insecurity be came meanness, meanness wildness, wildness desperation. Feb._ 4, 1954: Shoplifting, two shirts, two earmuffs, one package of razor blades, from Kress. Trousers, writing pads, marbles, shoelaces, rubber bands, from Grand Silver Stores. Apr. 2, 1954: He admitted pulling knives on two different newsboys and taking money from them. Juvenile home; released to father the next day. Jan. 5, 1955: He stopped a fouryear-old boy as he was leaving a store and took a $10 bill from him, He threatened to hurt two boys, nine and 11, if they didn’t go home and bring him some money. \(They caseworker believed he had a desire to maintain status with his peers. He didn’t need money, but he was small for his age, and he was threatening to beat younger boys up. “Quite a few of his older brothers have extensive police records. At the present time one of them is in jail for possession of marijuana. The parents’ protective attitude has not helped much.” Jan. 21, 1955: Sent to Gatesville for the first time. He was 12 years old-four feet seven inches tall, weight 76 pounds, black hair, brown eyes, olive complexion. Attitude: poor. April 25, 1955: Five days in discipline company for trying to run away with three ether boys. Aug. 31, 1955: Released. Nov. 1, 1955: He and two Corpus Christi boys, all parolees, stole a car, stole beer and gasoline on, the way to LaGrange, were jailed in LaGrange and broke out, and were picked up again. Nov. 21, 1955: He was again picked up for assaulting a boy and taking 90 cents from him forcibly. He was returned to Gatesville for the second time. Dec. 10, 1955: He made his first escape from the training school. Worry and turmoil over his mother’s illness was given as the cause. She was writing him in her letters that his doings would be the cause of her death. After two days Austin police returned him to Gatesville. May 28, 1956: He hit a boy on the back of the head with a mower roller and was confined to the discipline company ten days. June 18, 1956: For trying to start a gang fight, 30 days in discipline. July 5, 1956: He was involved in shaking boys down for cigarettes. October 19, 1956: Released upon “satisfactory adjustment” under Travis County supervision. Jan. 4, 1957: Returned to Gatesville for auto theft at 14 years of age. Feb. 25, 1957: Escaped and returned the same day by “Thomas and dogs.” Aug. 7, 1957: Escaped and apprehended in Austin two days later. Auto theft. Oct. 8, 1957: Escaped and returned the same day. Oct. 16, 1957: Found in his room with razor in his hand and forced superficial cuts on his arm. “The boy was merely trying to make an impression …” Dec. 14, 1957: Escaped, returned two days later by Georgetown police. March 5, 1958: Escaped, returned the next day by Waco police. He and other boys had stolen a car from a painter, driven to Temple, abandoned the car and stole another, made it to Waco, tried to steal a third car, and were apprehended. May 14, 1958: He “cut himself with a safety razor blade which he said he had with him when he was locked up in California Hall. He was locked up in this unit on April 30 for having a butcher knife in his possession in the dormitory. He made the following The father finished four years of college. He is a devoted Catholic. He earns almost $11,000 a year. He is in excellent health. He does not drink and has never been arrested. His hobbies are hunting, fishing, golf, and tennis. The mother is also a college graduate, a Catholic, in excellent health, has never been arrested, and does not drink. One of their sons is in college. He was, it is true, recently released from jail for auto theft and burglary. The other son had sex instruction in the home and dated often. He liked fishing, football, baseball, swimming, and hunting, and was a Boy Scout and member of a Dallas YMCA. But he quit school in the ninth grade, his parents sent him then to military school, and shortly thereafter he was arrested for auto theft. He also has, in his record, running away from home and the theft of a motor scooter. For the car theft he was sent to Gatesville on October 3, 1958, at A 15-year-old boy who has twice been sent to Gatesville for “incorrigibility” is less a delinquent than a victim of a home situation. The natural father, aged 50, is in Huntsville penitentiary. The mother, in her late thirties, lives at Galveston. There are nine children. They were declared dependent and neglected in Galveston in 1953. The boy has lived with his parents, in, foster care, in an orphanage, and finally with his mother. The record says he is “a disturbed young boy,” but he was treated in a hospital a month and found to be not psychotic. He has an older brother in Gatesville. His oldest sister was married and divorced. His next oldest sister and his next youngest brother are at a private orphanage. Three younger brothers and sisters have been placed for adoption through the county child welfare unit. cuts on himself: four vertical cuts about two inches long on his chest; five horizontal cuts on his stomach ranging from one inch to about four inches in length; and two cuts on each arm ranging from one inch to three inches long. He said he would have cut more but was stopped by the attendant …. None of the cuts rere deep enough to require tended to kill h i m s e 1 f. This worker asked him why he did not cut his throat or wrist if he was trying to kill himself. He said he `got to thinking and felt lonely ‘ and just didn’t care what happened’.” Aug. 5, 1958: While on leave with a caseworker to see his ailing mother, he ran away through a back door. Nov. 15, 1958: He was picked up for burglarizing a gun shop and a grocery and stealing a car; he was returned to Gatesville for the fourth time, 16 years of age. He was five feet five, 115 pounds, with a pachuco sign on. the back of each hand and a snake on his right arm. Dec. 14, 1958: He escaped again, but this time he and four other the age of 16. The next month he escaped. The next month he was apprehended in another state, and sent back to Gatesville. The next day, in the afternoon, he “cut himself, making two or three cuts on each wrist. He broke a light bulb in his room, and used this to cut himself. He then called on the attendant and told him what he had done. He was taken to the institution’s hospital for treatment … He is in detention for running away and being involved in the theft of two autos. When questioned concerning the cutting, got nervous and did it’.” He escaped again on February 6, 1959, two weeks ago, and he has not been caught. The caseworker was puzzled how such an advantaged child could go wrong. “The parents appear to be very warm, loving, interested people,” he wrote into the boy’s record. “They are above average socially, morally, and intellectually. It is almost impossible for this worker While his mother is at work and his sister is “busy,” the records say, he skips school, steals, fights, and wanders aimlessly around town. He has never been accused of stealing or any specific offense. In connection with one commitment to Gatesville the Galveston County probation office wrote the training school, “We have no that he will have to remain there like his brother … ” In another letter to Gatesville, Mrs. Marion P. Lockley, supervisor of the Galveston County child welfare units, said, \(the em”We have NOTHING to offer gation for him … There are no facilities to cope with him. We exhausted ALL there was before having him committed to Gatesville. We tried both orphanage and foster home. and he was not amenable to help in EITHER ….” He is at Gatesville now. boys crossed a deep line the law draws. They broke out of their dormitory and forced a man and his son into their car at knife point, driving off, and “therefore kidnapping” the two. The car was curved to the curb by Temple police; all five were arrested and the two who were old enough were imprisoned for kidnapping. The other three, including the Austin boy, are now locked in cells at California Hall, Gatesville, until they cross the threshold to seventeen and they, too, can be charged and sent to Huntsville penitentiary if juries so decide. Jan. 4, 1959: The Austin boy, locked in a cell, “cut himself, making numerous cuts and scratches on both arms, stomach, chest, and hands. He used a broken light bulb to do the cutting. The only explanation that that ‘I got lonesome’.” Jan. 20, 1959: A caseworker sent a letter to the boy’s father: “Your son is quite worried because he hasn’t received a letter from you during the past few weeks. He says that you were sick … He is quite worried about your welfare.” out against society the way he does … Whenever his parents punish him he runs off.” What does the boy think the answer is? There is only one sentence that sheds any light on that question. Wrote the caseworker: he was overly protected by his mother and apparently was afraid of his father.” Murder at 15 Last year a pack of six juveniles in Houston kicked and beat a 19-year-old boy severely and stripped him of money and even his tennis shoes. The victim died of the beating. One of the boys wore the tennis shoes even though he knew their owner was dead. The boy who wore the tennis shoes was committed to the trainning school on Sept. 12, 1958. His family moved about a good deal. The father was a carpenter and an itinerant preacher of Pentecostal denomination. He was separated from a first wife and had five children by the second. He had been doing roving evangelistic work nine or ten years with the carpentry as a sideline, and truancy developed among the five children. The mother had very little schooling; had been an orphan; was “very antagonistic toward all law enforcement agencies … difficult to reason with and most protective in her attitude.” The boy in question was interested in mechanical work. He acted as his father’s helper in the carpentry. He had completed the seventh grade; no more. He is five feet eight and a half, weighs 145, with blonde hair and