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Pattern of Trouble : Boy Accused of Killing Bike Shop Owner Had Discipline Problems

April 11, 1993|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONROVIA — The 12-year-old Monrovia boy accused of murdering a popular bicycle store owner last month has true leadership potential--most of it heading in the wrong direction, a teacher told authorities.

Since starting sixth grade in September, the boy had a record of 25 disciplinary incidents, including fighting with other students and disrupting class, according to his probation report, a copy of which was obtained by The Times. During that period, he was suspended three times.

But unlike many probation reports, this one shows no escalating pattern of violence that might foreshadow the heinous crime the boy is charged with committing on March 11. On that day, he allegedly entered Bicycle Sam's, with the possible intent of robbery, and shot owner Jung Sam Woo in the head with a gun he got at home.

Monrovia police say the boy--whose name is being withheld because of his age--has no prior criminal record and is not in a gang. On the day of the murder, the boy allegedly left the store without stealing anything.

Conceding that they know little about the boy's state of mind, authorities last week ordered him to undergo comprehensive psychiatric tests. Still, the probation report shows a boy whose disruptive behavior formed a pattern.

His fifth-grade teacher at Bradoaks Elementary School told probation officials that the boy--who is small for his age and wears an earring--was suspended for fighting and intimidating other students.

He "has the capability of having others follow him and had a charismatic aura about him, and it didn't get channeled right," the teacher said.

Trouble continued when the boy entered middle school last fall, with almost daily run-ins with authority, according to documents provided to probation officials by the Monrovia Unified School District.

Five teachers who evaluated him concluded that the boy was not using his abilities. They added that he liked to test authority and mix good behavior with bad.

After being cited for stealing school property, making obscene gestures and fighting, the boy was transferred from Clifton Middle School to Santa Fe Middle School on Nov. 4, the report said. But his bad behavior continued.

On Jan. 11, the probation report said, he slapped another child hard enough to leave an imprint on his face. The youngster "seems to find it humorous when he hurts people," a school official said, adding that he "shows no remorse for inappropriate behavior."

That incident was quickly followed by a spate of others:

Jan. 21: Threw rock at another student.

Jan. 25: Inflicted physical injury on another student.

Feb. 1: Inappropriate classroom behavior.

Feb. 3: Not prepared for class, disruptive, knocked down a chair.

Feb. 11: Inflicted injury on another student on the way home from school.

Feb. 18: Broke another student's project and used profanities.

March 8: Made an obscene gesture.

The entries end with March 11, when the boy ditched school. That was the day of the murder.

Meanwhile, the boy's parents, Frances and Cleveland Charles, maintain that they monitored their son's grades and drove him to and from school so he would stay out of trouble. And on the day of the murder, the report shows, his mother came to check on him.

The boy comes from a stable, lower middle-class family. Frances Charles works as a hairdresser and Cleveland Charles works in construction. Their only other child, a 16-year-old daughter, is doing well in school, the family said.

Cleveland Charles spanked his son with a belt or with his hand when the boy brought home bad report cards or got into trouble, and said the boy would sometimes laugh after the spankings, according to the probation report. The father also had long talks with the boy.

"He is getting too old to spank, and I would try to make him responsible for what he did," Charles told probation officials. "We would try to provide things for him and implied that he would receive things based upon his behavior."

On occasion, Charles took his son hunting, where they used shotguns. At home however, Charles said he kept his gun separate from the ammunition, which he stored in a secure area of the family garage.

The boy had four bikes and enjoyed taking them apart and reassembling them, his father said.

Since entering Juvenile Hall, the boy's attitude "is one of arrogance to staff. . . . He is very childish and immature and has not shown any remorse while in detention. He has a smirk on his face all the time and constantly demands attention," according to the probation report.

The boy also has started to identify and communicate with older and more sophisticated youths at Juvenile Hall, the report noted. Because of the severity of the crime, if the boy is convicted probation officials recommended that he be confined in the California Youth Authority until he is 25.

On March 11, police believe that the boy and two friends walked o Bicycle Sam's, a neighborhood shop where the popular owner often gave away small parts and made free repairs. The boy allegedly entered the store and shot Woo in the back of the head once with a .22-caliber revolver that belonged to his father.

Walking out empty-handed, the boy allegedly told other stunned youngsters, "Go get the bikes." Monrovia police confirmed reports that the boy bragged after the incident.

Police apprehended the boy at his parents' house that evening after his terrified friends called the police and told investigators they thought the gun had been fake and that he had only been joking about stealing a bike.

Monrovia detectives said the boy showed no emotion or remorse while being interrogated, adding that they did not think his demeanor was due to shock over the incident.

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