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KARE 11 Investigates: Mentally ill and violent kids, unable to stand trial, let go

Gaps in Minnesota’s juvenile justice system allow violent kids found mentally incompetent to be sent back to the community with little or no treatment.

Brandon Stahl (KARE11), Lauren Leamanczyk, Steve Eckert

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Published: 4:36 PM CDT November 3, 2022
Updated: 10:32 PM CST November 15, 2022

Sitting in her Richfield home alone, working on her computer one night last September, 77-year-old “Jean” suddenly heard a male voice behind her.

“Where’s your stash?” he demanded, before he repeatedly punched her on the right side of her head, according to a criminal charge.

“I could have died,” said Jean, who asked that only her middle name be used to protect her safety.

A few weeks later, Katie – who asked that her last name not be used – drove down a south Minneapolis street when the same male, accused of being with a group, tried to carjack her.

“I was traumatized. I was pretty scared,” she said.

Credit: KARE 11
A neighbor's doorbell camera captured video of at least two people slamming into "Katie's" van in an attempted carjacking.

When both women saw his face, their reaction was the same.

“I just said, 'Oh my god, he’s so young,'" Katie said.

“So young. So young,” said Jean.

He was only 16.

When they learned about the boy’s history, they got angry. 

Two months before he was accused of attacking Jean and Katie, he was in the Hennepin Juvenile Detention Center facing numerous charges for his alleged involvement in other armed robberies.

Yet, after finding that he was incompetent to stand trial, a judge let him go – without treatment and little supervision. 

“They let him go to commit more crimes – and he did,” Katie said. “And one of them was mine.”

The boy is what’s known in Minnesota as a “gap case,” where suspects charged with crimes fall through gaps in the state’s criminal justice and mental health systems.

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