Saturday, August 18, 2001

Fitness of boys for trial tested

8-year-old girl was beaten, raped

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The two boys shuffled into Hamilton County Juvenile Court on Friday with messy hair and teary eyes. The pudgy one leaned hard against his mom, ducking his head under her arm.

        They looked like they belonged anywhere but here, where they face horrific allegations in the beating death Wednesday and repeated rape of their baby sister and cousin. Takeya Bryant was 8.

[photo] The mother of a 13-year-old boy charged with raping and murdering his cousin gives him a hug after his court appearance Friday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        They're just 11 and 13 — among the youngest ever to be charged with murder in Hamilton County. The 13-year-old is also charged with three counts of rape. Now they'll undergo psychological evaluations to determine whether they understand what it means to be charged with murder and rape.

        Takeya's mother, African Evans, 29, of Northside, came to the hearing as the mother of a defendant, the 11-year-old, and the mother of the dead girl. She hugged her son, whispering in his ear.

        She turned also to the older boy, the baby sitter she left in charge of his four cousins, and patted him, too.

        Ms. Evans didn't want to talk about her family after leaving court, except to say she cannot afford to bury her daughter.

        The boys did not enter pleas Friday. They will be held in the juvenile detention center in Mount Auburn until at least Aug. 24, when a hearing is scheduled for Judge Sylvia Hendon to decide their competency to stand trial.

        Their ages alone were enough to make their public defender, Terry Weber, question their competency, he said. But there's another reason he sought the examinations — because of some possible mental limitations he thinks he might have noticed in his brief initial conversation with them. The boys will have separate lawyers soon, he said.

        At worst, if convicted, they can be held in detention until they are 21. They cannot be tried as adults because Ohio law prohibits that for children under age 14.

        “Certainly, they're not happy having to stay here,” Mr. Weber said outside the juvenile detention center. “But I think they understand the circumstances at this point. I explained to them, certainly, their possible penalties.”

        Friday's hearing wasn't Ms. Evans' first time in the juvenile court system. She lost custody of the children last year, after police found them alone in a Cumminsville apartment Oct. 18. A grandmother volunteered to care for the kids after police found them — then ages 10, 8, 7 and 6 — locked in the second-floor apartment. Firefighters had to help get them out through a window.

        Officers said they found that home a mess, with clothing everywhere, animal feces on the floor, a dirty kitchen and no food in the house.

        Ms. Evans pleaded no contest to one count of child endangering in December and custody was awarded to the grandmother. She had originally been charged with four counts.

        At some point, the grandmother gave the children back to their mother.

        Laurie Petrie, spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, said the death stunned the agency's staff.

        “It has devastated our caseworkers,” she said. “I can't even think about this child's last hours. It brings tears to my eyes.

        “To hear a story like this, it's just horrible.”

        At the close of Friday's hearing, the mother of the older boy, the one accused of rape, asked Magistrate Tom Flynn: “Can I hug my son before he goes?”

        She reached over to the 13-year-old, wrapped her arms around him and said: “I love you, baby. I love you.”

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