Two stabbed in altercation at Round Valley church

| August 22, 2010

A 13-year-old Covelo boy who intervened in a violent altercation between his mother and her live-in boyfriend was in police custody Friday after stabbing the man several times with a pocketknife, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said.

The eighth-grader was arrested for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and booked into Mendocino County Juvenile Hall in the aftermath of the Thursday evening stabbing. It left local officials to investigate the motivations of the young teenager who appears to have come to the aid of his mother.

“There's no doubt about it, that he thought he was trying to do the right thing,” Mendocino County Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb said.

The boy's name was not released because he is a minor.

The names of the wounded man and woman have not been released because the incident is a domestic violence situation, authorities said.

The altercation happened between 5 and 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the Faith Tabernacle Indian Mission parsonage, where the family, which also includes the teen's 11-year-old brother and the couple's 1-year-old daughter, had been living since April.

The two boys told investigators that the two adults were in an argument in the East Lane home when the man they called their step-dad grew violent, authorities said.

Tribal Police Officer William Vanderheiden, who was the first on the scene, said the boys told a family friend who arrived to help that their mother was on the floor with her 28-year-old boyfriend astride her, banging her head against the floor.

The older boy thought his mom might be dead or dying because her head “was just kind of flopping around,” and he took out his fold-out, 4-inch blade and ran to her aid, Vanderheiden said.

He stabbed the man an estimated seven times in the head, neck and torso and inadvertently cut his mother in the knee, as well, Smallcomb said.

The boy then ran with his siblings to a neighbor's home and told them what had happened. Vanderheiden found the man stooped over on the parsonage porch, bleeding profusely.

“He lost a massive amount of blood,” the officer said.

The boy also told a family friend he feared at one point that his mother had been killed and was panicked that he might have killed her boyfriend trying to stop him, they said.

“I was trying to calm him down,” Tribal Police Chief Carlos Rabano said. “He was pretty scared, pretty upset, pretty shaken. And the only thing that he said to me — asked me, actually — was, ‘Are they all right?'

The boy's mother was sitting in the doorway, yelling for help for her boyfriend after the altercation, Rabano said.

Vanderheiden, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said he grabbed towels from inside the home and tried to stop the bleeding as the stabbing victim lapsed in and out of consciousness.

Medics were able to stabilize the man as he was airlifted to the trauma center at Ukiah Valley Medical Center in Ukiah, fire and police personnel said.

The man was reported to be in stable condition Friday, Smallcomb said.

His 31-year-old girlfriend was taken by ground ambulance to Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, where she underwent surgery on her knee, Vanderheiden said.

A family friend, Cyndi Pickett, who cared for the three children immediately after the stabbing incident, said their mother was coming home from the hospital Friday.

Rabano and Vanderheiden said they were not aware of any history of domestic violence calls involving the couple.

But they said the man, who has two children from a prior relationship, had been imprisoned as recently as last year on a child endangerment charge stemming from a drunken driving incident in which he had a child or children in his vehicle.

They also said neighbors indicated the couple had been arguing and their fights were growing physical in recent weeks.

Rabano said he knew the 13-year-old boy and his brother from a tribal basketball program they had attended when their mother first arrived in Round Valley.

“They're good kids,” the chief said. “They're very well-mannered… Very courteous and a little quiet. Shy, I would say.”

After the stabbing, once the adults had been rushed away for hospital treatment, Rabano said he accompanied the older boy to Pickett's house to await the county sheriff's deputies he knew would soon arrive.

“I knew they were going to ‘cuff him and search him and put him in the back of a police car, and I wanted him to be ready for that,” Rabano said.

Smallcomb said detectives and juvenile justice officials still had work to do in sorting out the case and what will become of couple and the 13-year-old.

“I would think that once the evidence is all there, then it will be evaluated properly, and once they get a chance to talk with him and the right people, they will make the right determination about what his fate will be.”

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Category: Church Security