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A Child's Dilemma : Boy, 10, Turns in Mother, Stepfather to Police for Marijuana Possession

December 28, 1986|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

Ten-year-old Michael Hilchey of Claremont seemed edgy as he watched Geraldo Rivera's television special, "American Vice: The Doping of a Nation."

Police were shown bashing in the doors of suspected pushers. Former addicts talked about the evils of drugs. An Orange County girl who had turned in her parents for using cocaine told Rivera that she had done the right thing.

Finally, an uneasy Michael turned to his father.

"Mom's doing that," he blurted.

Turned in Mother

The fourth-grader and his father, David Hilchey of Harbor City, told police the next day that the boy's mother and stepfather had been using marijuana at their Claremont home three to four times a week for the last several years, according to Claremont Police Agent George Dynes.

Based on Michael's account, Dynes obtained a search warrant and on Dec. 14 seized more than a pound of marijuana from the home of the mother, Melinda Duran, 31, and her husband, Joseph David Duran, 34.

The couple was arrested and ordered to appear in Pomona Municipal Court on Jan. 20 for the misdemeanor charge of possessing more than an ounce of marijuana.

"I wish they would stop so they won't kill themselves," said Michael in an interview at his father's home, where he had watched the Dec. 2 television report during one of his regular visits.

The Durans, who have custody of the boy, could not be reached for comment.

Eighth Incident

This was the eighth time that a California youth has turned in his or her parents for suspected drug use since August, when 13-year-old Deanna Young of Tustin made headlines by going to police with a bag of cocaine that she had taken from her mother and father.

"If you're doing something ungodly or against man's law, then a child has every right to protect himself," said Hilchey, 36, adding that he would try to use the incident to gain permanent custody of his son. "Drugs and raising children just don't mix."

Dynes, who said he questioned the boy extensively to ensure that his actions did not stem from a custody battle between divorced parents, valued the confiscated marijuana at $750.

He said the marijuana was home-grown and there was no evidence to suggest the couple was selling the drug.

'Kind of a '60s Attitude'

"They had kind of a '60s attitude," said Dynes, "as in, 'Yes, it's illegal, but it's really a social question and it's up to each person to make that decision.' That type of thing."

He described the Durans, who live in an upper-middle-class home at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, as white-collar professionals.

Michael, who is scheduled to be on a ski vacation with his father over the holidays, said that his mother had paid him $1 a week to water the marijuana plants in the family's backyard rose garden.

He had asked his mother and stepfather to quit using the drug, he said, but they had told him it was no worse than cigarettes.

"I didn't want them to smoke," Michael said. "(But) they said you can do it if you wanted to."

Prefers to Live With Father

He added that he likes his mother and stepfather but would prefer to live with his father in Harbor City.

David Hilchey, a sailboat repairman, said that he attempted to gain permanent custody in 1982, after he claimed he saw a four-inch marijuana plant in his ex-wife's backyard.

Under a court-ordered settlement, Hilchey said he sees Michael every other weekend and for half of all holidays. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will consider his request for custody at a Jan. 7 hearing.

"The point is, if you tell a child it's bad to lie, it's bad to cheat, it's bad to steal . . . and you're not setting an example," he said, "then you're a hypocrite."

Dynes predicted that the Durans, who he said have no record of previous arrests, would probably be given the opportunity to enter a drug diversion program rather than face criminal charges for possession of marijuana.

"They're regular users," Dynes said. "They stated that it was their form of alcohol for relaxation when they got home from work."

But he added that he gave Michael a "worst-case scenario," describing for him the most severe punishments his mother and stepfather could receive.

"I tried to make it seem a lot worse than I really thought it would be," Dynes said. "I wanted to make sure he was doing this of his free will and that he understood the consequences of his actions."

Times staff writer George Stein contributed to this story.

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