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How to Help Neighbors Whose Son Was Arrested?

Darlene

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Our neighbors have a son who is 19, and just went off to college. He has always been a good student, and never been a problem to his parents. This week, he and a friend went to a store in the mall, and attempted to shoplift some T-shirts. When confrounted, they fled. Their son was caught in the parking lot, but proceeded to make the situation worse by punching the store employee, and a bystander that was helping. Instead of shoplifting, he is now charged with 2nd degree felony robbery, and 2 counts of assault. He furnished the name of the other boy, who is now facing a lesser charge, but has not been apprehended. My heart just aches for them, and I wonder what would be appropriate for us to say or do. How can we help them? I know that this is going to be very hard for them, and hard for them to face other people. They have struggled for years with a child with autism who is a year younger. Please don't comment on the act itself. We all know that his behavior was not appropriate. My only concern is how to help this family with what is going to be a long, painful process. What would you do to show your love and support?
Darlene
 

geekette

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You seem to know this family well, in which case, I would call or send a card that said something like, We know Bob is a good boy who just made some bad decisions. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here for you.
 

UWSurfer

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Kids are tough and in some ways it's harder when they are older.

Just when you think they "get it" and act responsible they'll do something stupid and you end up stunned. I've got a 20 y/o who gets it more and more these days, but every so often I pause and wonder what the heck was HE thinking when he reacts to a situation of his own making.

Just let your friends know you are there for them and to let you know if you can be of help.
 

Patri

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And that this could happen in any family. None of us are exempt either, as much as we would like to think. I wonder if they had been drinking a little.
 

easyrider

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I wouldn't bring it up unless the parents bring it up first, and then I wouldn't comment about the situation but instead let the parents vent if they felt like the needed to.
 

bogey21

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I had a similar experience with my Son about 20 years ago. He got arrested for stealing out of a woman's purse in a nightclub. I refused to bail him out and allowed him to stay in the downtown jail with the usual bunch of derelicts for about 48 hours. It about cost me my marriage but it sure straightened him out. Never a problem again

George
 

Fern Modena

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Darlene,
The main thing I'd want to do is show my friends that I'm there to support them. If you are friends with someone (at least for me), that friendship should be unconditional. Even though you feel that way, your friends may not know this. So, what do you do? It may sound corny or old fashioned, but either invite them over for coffee and dessert or bring a cake or pie over to their house. What you are bringing over, really, is your friendship and support, of course.

About twelve years ago I had a neighbor lose a child to a gang fight/murder. I can't imagine her pain. I didn't hear about it until the next morning. When I did, I immediately went over to her house and sat with her. We sat together for hours. She's from a different culture than I am, but it didn't matter to either of us. After that day I became a part of her extended family.

You are a very caring person. I can tell that by the fact that you are asking what to do. All you have to do is look into your heart. The answer is there, and you'll do the right thing.

Fern
 

vacationhopeful

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Ask everybody you know who is the best criminal defense lawyer.

Most "good" people think that the family lawyer can handle this type of stuff or recommend another lawyer. Get at least two names and what type of cases they are best in and GIVE them to your friend. Time is important as some first offenses can be pleaded down before an indictment is handed out.

And in criminal stuff, connections DO matter.

My brother is a 25+ year criminal lawyer in another state - hundreds of cases over the years (including death penalty defenses and Supreme Court) - he spent years as a public defender. He has never done any other type of law - I am just trying to give you a profile of WHO I would want to defend my kid.
 

pjrose

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Offer a shoulder, an ear, and your cell phone number any time they want to call. Then repeat the offer in a few days, in a week. Let them know any time they need to just vent, you're there, and you are not judging.

There will probably be many hours spent with lawyers etc - offer to take out the dog or pick up the paper.

Reassure them that good kids do screw up, it's not their fault, and you are available for them.
 

LAX Mom

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I agree with the advice already given, this could happen to any of us. Make sure they know you are not judging their son or his actions. Being a parent isn't easy these days and even the best of kids make mistakes.

I like Fern's suggestion of taking something over to the house as a way to show your support. It will let them know you care and are concerned about their situation.
 

Darlene

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Thanks for all the good advice.
I made some cookies, and took a card over telling them that we love and support them. Neither parent was home, but the oldest daughter was. She said they were surprised. The police called late at night, and her dad refused to go down and bail him out, so he stayed overnight in jail. She said her dad seemed to be doing ok, but her mom was having a harder time. The daughter did not seemed overly concerned. She said she hoped he had learned a lesson, and he needed to get a job.
I hope that since this is his first offense, he'll be able to plea bargain. His hearing is not until the middle of December, so he'll be able to finiish off his first semester in college. If convicted, though, even if it's pleaded down to shoplifting somehow, he won't be allowed back to the same university he's at now, any conviction would be an honor code violation. I think that they're still kind of in shock, and I think your right, they will be spending lots of time and money defending him.
This could happen to anyone. We all have our own unique set of problems, some health issues, some marriage issues, taking care of elderly parents, or problems with our kids. I just don't want to make them think we don't care, nor do I want to make them feel uncomfortable.
 

pjrose

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Anything he and they can possibly do to get this down to something like a fine and community service, and, especially, to keep him in school full-time, is important.

If they are carrying him on their medical insurance they may lose his coverage if he is not a full-time student, and they might not be able to get him back on. Even if he is at home taking community college courses, it's probably got to be full time to keep the insurance. If the store can somehow be convinced to drop the charges - e.g. he write a sincerely apologetic letter, or ??? - it may help.

They shouldn't just wait till the hearing in December - they need to be proactive right away with a good lawyer who may be able to get it dropped or changed asap.
 

Fletcher921

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I have been there as a parent and you seem like a very caring friend. The nicest thing for us was just hearing from friends - they said nothing in particular - sometimes just calling to say they were thinking of us and wanted to check in to see how things were going. Offers of a movie date or an afternoon shopping or a dogwalk were very well recieved.
 

Darlene

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I don't think that the store will be very cooperative since he punched the employee in the face and broke his nose. The first thing I thought of would be restitution to the store, and the medical cost for the employee's injury. He also punched a good samaritan who was trying to help the employee. Hence the two assault charges, and that made the shoplifting charge go up to 2nd degree felony robbery since he used force. They caught the other kid, but he is still a minor, and will only be charged with shoplifting, and evading arrest. I am afraid that since they have never been in a situation like this before, and this is his first offense, that they are convinced the court will be lenient. I'm not so sure. I think that they will treat him the same as everyone else. Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty, but I read the police report online, and I think they will take the officers word over his. He says the employee was in his face yelling, and that's why he punched him. I don't think that's going to be a good enough reason after the chase that he put them through that went through the mall, to the parking lot (where caught the first time), then punched both the employee and the good samaritan to get away. He was then in pursuit by police officer who chased him through the parking lot, and eventually found him hiding under a table in a restaraunt. I know he was trying to get away not only because of his fear of what happen to him if caught, but mostly because his parents have very high expectations for him. I agree with you, though, I would be at the store begging them to take huge wads of cash, some sort of restitution, and pay all the employees medical bills (offer plastic surgery to repair), but I just don't think I could say this to his parents. I think they think it's all going to be fine. BTW, in Utah 2nd degree felony conviction is a jail term of 1-15 years, and a fine up to $10,000. I hope they have a lawyer that can put this in perspective.
 

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I believe in sympathy and support for the parents. The kid is the tough call. Jail time will probably straighten him out but will screw up future educational and employment opportunities. Back 50 years ago when I was in a similar circumstance things were a lot simpler. Judge would just say "the military or jail. Take your choice". Most of us took the military and it worked out fine. That's probably not an option today.

George
 
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BevL

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You're a very caring friend, that's for sure.

When our son was arrested for drunk driving (and he was guilty as sin, by the way), we told some of our close friends. Basically nothing was said about it by anybody after the initial and appropriate commiseration.

Although from your point of view this came completely out of the blue, when you said that his dad refused to bail him out and his sister was not that upset and made some comments about him getting a job, it makes me wonder if his parents are really that surprised. We weren't. We knew it was a matter of time before our son ended up in some sort of mess.

My husband and I didn't bail him out, he was in jail overnight. We loaned, stress loaned, him money for a lawyer (which he had to find) and he was able to plead down to a dangerous driving charge due to some problems with the breathalyzer test. We didn't attend court with him, it was his mess to sort out.

Was I worried? Yes. If he'd been convicted, he couldn't have left the country and a conviction would have severely hurt him, followed him for life. Did I feel guilty? Not a bit. We'd "raised him better than that," warned him about his behaviour, begged him to realize that actions have consequences and he couldn't escape that.

He's starting school again in January, working toward a degree in social work, or perhaps going into policing.

So while your worry about your friend is admirable, and it sounds like Mom is having a harder time, perhaps they're handling it better than you might think.

Just my .02 worth.

Bev
 

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And sometimes saying nothing is best. I know it sounds weird because we all want to be there for each other. My folks are extremely modest and would be uncomfortable sharing such experiences, even though they would surely benefit from the therapy of friends. My older sister had a few tough times in high school and I know my mom would have been moritifed if approached by neighbors.

Don't get me wrong, I know their response to adversity is not the best- it's just how some people are. I was able to pull off a huge Catholic wedding as a college sophomore with the help of a big hoop skirt dress and the largest bouquet you'd ever seen. My son, born three months later, was the best oops I've ever made. However, at the time my mom would have been devastated to announce she was about to be a grandma.
 

Patri

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Don't get me wrong, I know their response to adversity is not the best- it's just how some people are. I was able to pull off a huge Catholic wedding as a college sophomore with the help of a big hoop skirt dress and the largest bouquet you'd ever seen. My son, born three months later, was the best oops I've ever made. However, at the time my mom would have been devastated to announce she was about to be a grandma.


Not to hijack the thread but that is hilarious. I bet your mom doesn't care one twit anymore about it. Your son surely melted her heart.
 

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I had a friend who, at age 18, shop-lifted a package of 3 lamb chops from a supermarket. I was shocked when she confided in me about it because I had always known her to be a scrupulously honest gal. At the time she was a "starving" first year college student. She said she was overcome by a craving for meat which she hadn't eaten in weeks due to an extremely tight budget.

An employee saw her put the package in her pocketbook and yelled at her, saying he was going to call the police. She thought of running out of the store, or of lying about it, claiming she was going to pay for it. But instead she decided she had to accept the consequences of her behaviour. She began to tremble and cry.

The store manager, a woman in her 50's, arrived on the scene and brought her to an office in the back of the store. When she ascertained the facts, she told my friend to learn from the experience and to not do anything like that again. Friend assured her that she would never steal anything--ever. The manager then told her she could leave, she didn't want to know her name or address, and that nothing more would come of the incident. My friend left the store, head down, afraid that everyone knew what she had done.

After leaving the store, she was waiting for a bus when the manager suddenly appeared, handed her a bag, winked at her, and walked off. The bag contained 6 lamb chops, along with a cash register receipt showing that the meat had been paid for. Friend ran after her. The manager just said, "Everyone makes mistakes in life. As long as they learn from it, it was worth happening. Finish college and do something good with your life. Help people whenever you can."

This happened over 40 years ago and my friend has never forgotten it. She just retired from a very successful career and realizes that if she had been arrested, her life could have turned out very different. Even if the case was pled down to a fine or community service, she would not have received the high security clearance she needed for her dream job. And she would not have met her DH, a co-worker. She still has not told him or her children about this inceident, but she has instilled in the children the absolute need to be honest and to face up to any mistakes they may make.
 

pjrose

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Jennie,
What a wonderful anecdote. Thanks for sharing it.
PJ
 

pianodinosaur

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Darlene:

Your neighbors son is in a great deal of trouble. You have been a good friend to your neighbors. I hope that he can learn from his mistakes. Punching the store clerk at the same time as the theft is serious business. I have been a clerk in a store and I would not be too sympathetic if I were the one punched in the face.

There was a tragic accident last year in our neighborhood. Six children aged 12-15 stole a car at night and drove it into a parked train about 2 blocks from where I live. Four of them were killed. The young man who was driving the vehicle was just sentenced to 8 years in jail. He was only charged with auto theft. He could have been tried for murder because in Texas, if someone is killed in the course of committing a felony, that is murder by definition. If more than one person is killed, there is a mandatory death sentence. The DA and courts were lenient. I know the parents of some of the dead children. No amount of personal success in life can make up for this kind of tragedy. The parents of the children who were killed pleaded with the court that he not be tried for murder.

Your neighbor's son still has a chance to repent and overcome the obstacles in his life that he has created for himself. Let us pray that he will do so.
 

Darlene

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My neighbor called and told me that it has been really hard for them, especially his wife. He has talked to lawyers, and most likely his son will be kicked out of college. They are trying to be positive. One good thing is that his bail was not very high. They said that the media exaggerated some of the actual details. He said that his son only punched the employee after the employee provoked him by screaming at him telling him "he was going to pay" and "he'd screwed up his life." They also said there was a bystander that offered to pay for the shirts, but the store emplyee would not let him. They think that once the judge hears all the facts that it will help his case. I'm not so sure. I think the basic facts are that he stole the shirts, and he punched 2 people.
First, I am so thankful that he is alive. Second, I hope he will learn something from the experience. Third, I' glad that he didn't seriously injure or kill someone else. And last, I hope that his relationship with his parents will be better from their love and support. I didn't mention that he is adopted. They have three adopted kids, including the autistic daughter, that they have had since they were very young. I never thought that this would be an issue, but apparently since he turned 18, he has been interested in his birth parents. I'm not sure if this influenced his actions or not. I know that his (adoptive) parents have been the ones to step up and give him finacial and emotional support. Maybe this whole experience will have a positive result, and help him realize that they are his real parents.
It makes me appreciate my family, and friends and all my blessings, and even my own problems and struggles.
Thanks for all the great suggestions and support.
 

Tia

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Lots of adrenaline at the time of the incident, but punching someone you don't know cause they yell at you for stealing... don't understand but have never been in such a spot.

The adoption question could be a part of what is throwing the young man off balance emotionally. I have a friend whose 13 yo adopted son was having questions about who gave him up. My friend explained to their son that the people who gave him up did not have an empty place at the dinner table for him... they even let him go visit the the foster family he remembered, as when he was 3-4 the birth parents tried to get him back. Her son is now 17 and a senior in hs doing quit well.
 

Liz Wolf-Spada

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Maybe they can get him probation with anger management classes. They do need a good lawyer.
Liz
 
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