Two 9-year-old Sepulveda boys arrested in a series of residential burglaries after one got stuck in a chimney will not be returned to the custody of their mothers, but the county Probation Department will consider allowing them to live with their grandmothers, a court commissioner ruled Tuesday.
After separate hearings, Sylmar Juvenile Court Commissioner Jack Gold ordered the Probation Department to place the boys with their grandmothers if an investigation deems the grandmothers fit. Otherwise, the boys should be placed in separate foster homes, Gold said.
"They obviously had no supervision whatsoever," Gold said in an interview, explaining his refusal to allow the boys to return home.
"If you get into trouble, you're going to come back here," Gold warned the boy who got stuck in the chimney. Last month, the boy pleaded guilty to one count of burglary. He could be held in county custody up to six years. The other boy last month pleaded guilty to one count of burglary and one count of attempted burglary. He could be kept in county custody up to six years and eight months, Gold said.
Gold forbade the boys to associate with each other.
Mothers Cried in Court
Dressed in oversized, gray sweat shirts, jeans and tennis shoes, the boys fidgeted during the hearing. Both mothers left the courtroom in tears, and the mother of one broke down in court, causing the case to be postponed for several hours.
The boys, friends and fourth-grade classmates at Plummer Elementary School in Sepulveda, were accused of stealing cash, clothing and other items in a series of residential burglaries between Dec. 19 and Jan. 14. Police and Probation Department reports quote the boys as saying they used the money to pay for video games, movies and bowling.
The boys were arrested Jan. 14 after one boy got stuck in the chimney of a Sepulveda home. Firefighters had to drill a hole in the chimney to extricate him after the other boy called a police emergency line. The boys also had been arrested Jan. 11 on suspicion of stealing $500 from a Sepulveda home Dec. 20.
Attorney Albert Meister asked that the boy who got stuck in the chimney be returned to his mother, Rosa Medellin. He quoted Medellin as saying she had been unable to "pay as close attention as necessary" to her son in the days before his arrests for burglary because of the stress of being a single parent with four children and working outside the home.
Meister said Medellin, a seamstress who does not speak English and is pregnant with a fifth child, has moved to a new neighborhood and now works out of her home so that she would be able to more closely supervise her son.
"Difficult as it is, she feels love conquers all," Meister said.
In a letter to Gold, Bernadette Johnson, the mother of the other boy, asked the commissioner to keep the family together, but Gold refused, saying that Johnson had some time ago "dumped" her three children, ages 3 to 13, on her 65-year-old mother and moved in with her boyfriend. However, Gold said he would consider allowing the boy to live with the mother of his stepfather.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Marguerite McKinney said the parents will have visitation rights. For the time being, the boys will be placed in a special treatment program at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, Gold said.