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A boy and a bureaucracy

Agencies fight over who should pay costs for child who killed Ryan Carter

Ryan Carter
Ryan Carter

The question over which government agency should pay for the now 13-year-old boy who stabbed and killed 12-year-old El Cajon resident Ryan Carter in 2010 remains unanswered.

Ever since a judge found the boy incompetent to stand trial due to disabilities stemming from fetal alcohol syndrome, the boy has lived in a state of limbo, at least in the eyes of the county and the non-profit San Diego County Developmental Services.

On October 6, the County Office of Education, the agency in charge of overseeing curriculum and legal matters for county school districts, sued the county and the developmental services department for passing the buck on who should pay the costs of the boy's residential treatment facility.

According to the lawsuit, because the boy has been transferred from the juvenile detention facility, he is the county's responsibility. The office of education is asking the county for reimbursement of costs and to develop a policy to prevent this game of financial hot potato from being played again.

The January 2010 incident occurred when a ten-year-old boy was playing with Carter and other neighborhood friends. The boy soon became enraged, something that had been occurring more frequently since being prescribed a new anti-anxiety medicine. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen and ran outside. His adoptive mother was unable to stop him. He collided with 12-year-old Ryan Carter, stabbing him and eventually killing him.

The district attorney charged the boy with murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He remained in a juvenile detention center for a year and a half, until August 2012, when a judge declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial. The boy was released from the detention center and sent to a residential treatment facility.

It was the transfer, according to the complaint, that took responsibility from the County Office of Education and placed it with the county.

"Once [the boy] was declared incompetent by the Juvenile Court, it was incumbent upon the County to make a suitable placement for him where it could be determined whether he had a substantial probability of achieving competency in the foreseeable future and where he could 'make progress towards that goal,'" reads the lawsuit. "Under the due process protections of the federal and state Constitutions, the County does not have authority to hold a criminal defendant in jail indefinitely instead of taking steps to attempt to restore him to competency.

"Under state law, if a non-educational public agency, like the County, were to make a residential placement for a child, it would be obligated to pay for the residential and non-educational costs of the placement. If it placed out of state, it would be responsible for the entire cost. [San Diego County Office of Education] is informed and believes and thereon alleges that to avoid this obligation, the County determined that [Office of Education] or the Cajon Valley Unified School District where [the boy] resided should make and pay for a residential placement for [the boy] upon his release.... As a result, [the boy] remained detained in Juvenile Hall even though the County readily admitted it had no authority to continue to detain him."

Despite using lack of funding as an excuse for transferring care, the office of education says the county has had no problem spending thousands on experts and outside attorneys.

This isn't the first attempt by the office of education to get the county to pay for the 13-year-old's residential and non-educational needs. Last year, the agency filed suit against the boy's mother in U.S. federal court. That court dismissed the case, providing an opening for a new lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court.

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Ryan Carter
Ryan Carter

The question over which government agency should pay for the now 13-year-old boy who stabbed and killed 12-year-old El Cajon resident Ryan Carter in 2010 remains unanswered.

Ever since a judge found the boy incompetent to stand trial due to disabilities stemming from fetal alcohol syndrome, the boy has lived in a state of limbo, at least in the eyes of the county and the non-profit San Diego County Developmental Services.

On October 6, the County Office of Education, the agency in charge of overseeing curriculum and legal matters for county school districts, sued the county and the developmental services department for passing the buck on who should pay the costs of the boy's residential treatment facility.

According to the lawsuit, because the boy has been transferred from the juvenile detention facility, he is the county's responsibility. The office of education is asking the county for reimbursement of costs and to develop a policy to prevent this game of financial hot potato from being played again.

The January 2010 incident occurred when a ten-year-old boy was playing with Carter and other neighborhood friends. The boy soon became enraged, something that had been occurring more frequently since being prescribed a new anti-anxiety medicine. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen and ran outside. His adoptive mother was unable to stop him. He collided with 12-year-old Ryan Carter, stabbing him and eventually killing him.

The district attorney charged the boy with murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He remained in a juvenile detention center for a year and a half, until August 2012, when a judge declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial. The boy was released from the detention center and sent to a residential treatment facility.

It was the transfer, according to the complaint, that took responsibility from the County Office of Education and placed it with the county.

"Once [the boy] was declared incompetent by the Juvenile Court, it was incumbent upon the County to make a suitable placement for him where it could be determined whether he had a substantial probability of achieving competency in the foreseeable future and where he could 'make progress towards that goal,'" reads the lawsuit. "Under the due process protections of the federal and state Constitutions, the County does not have authority to hold a criminal defendant in jail indefinitely instead of taking steps to attempt to restore him to competency.

"Under state law, if a non-educational public agency, like the County, were to make a residential placement for a child, it would be obligated to pay for the residential and non-educational costs of the placement. If it placed out of state, it would be responsible for the entire cost. [San Diego County Office of Education] is informed and believes and thereon alleges that to avoid this obligation, the County determined that [Office of Education] or the Cajon Valley Unified School District where [the boy] resided should make and pay for a residential placement for [the boy] upon his release.... As a result, [the boy] remained detained in Juvenile Hall even though the County readily admitted it had no authority to continue to detain him."

Despite using lack of funding as an excuse for transferring care, the office of education says the county has had no problem spending thousands on experts and outside attorneys.

This isn't the first attempt by the office of education to get the county to pay for the 13-year-old's residential and non-educational needs. Last year, the agency filed suit against the boy's mother in U.S. federal court. That court dismissed the case, providing an opening for a new lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court.

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Comments
2

Child didn't know what he was doing. No adult help. In this case blame the alcoholic mom and no supervision.

Nov. 4, 2014

The taxpayer will support him until he dies. He should be institutionalized for life. It makes no difference what "department" is responsible the taxpayer pays.

Nov. 6, 2014

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