Court records: Accused 8-year-old stabber a victim of neglect

Caulfield Avenue SW, Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids police on the scene where an 8-year-old stabbed a 12-year-old on Caulfield Avenue SW. (Nov. 9, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The 8-year-old boy accused in a serious stabbing had suffered a critical head injury as a toddler, leading to a finding of neglect against his mother, court records show.

In June 2009, Child Protective Services took the boy, then 17 months old, from his mother after charging her with neglect in Muskegon County, court records show.

The state filed that charge after the boy suffered a critical head injury at his family’s home in Muskegon.

Muskegon stabbing suspect's former home
The shuttered Muskegon home where an 8-year-old accused of stabbing another child once lived.

The mom had left the toddler and her five other young children in the care of her brother, a cocaine abuser who was wanted for absconding on bond, court records indicate.

Charles Clapp, the attorney representing the young boy in the recent stabbing, said he wasn’t aware of the Muskegon case.

“We will look into it, obviously,” Clapp said.

Records show the boy was admitted to the intensive care unit at DeVos Children’s Hospital in critical condition, after a closed head injury in June 2009.

His mom said a daughter later told her that the boy hit his head on a banister while sliding down the stairs.

However, while treating the head injury, doctors discovered two broken bones in the boy’s right hand.

At first, the mom “offered no explanation for the hand injuries,” court records show. Later, she reported he had slammed his hand in a door two to three months earlier, though she couldn’t remember which hand. She said she didn’t get medical treatment for him then because she didn’t notice any bruises.

The state returned the boy to his mom four months later after she completed a parenting program, records show.

The boy is now charged with assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder — likely the youngest ever charged in Kent County with such a violent crime.

He’s accused of stabbing a 12-year-old twice in the chest with a large knife on Nov. 9 at a home on Caulfield Avenue SW in Grand Rapids.

It happened when the 12-year-old stepped between the boy and younger children to break up an argument.

The victim underwent surgery and is recovering.

The 8-year-old’s mom was working at the time of the alleged attack. The suspect’s father is in prison, but another adult was home, prosecutors said.

“Very few times do you have somebody that young,” Clapp said.

Clapp said he now wonders if the old head injury could have contributed to his client’s behavior, saying it appears he has a developmental disability.

“If we were to actually have to have a trial, that would be a major issue,” he said.

In the meantime, prosecutors said they expect to hold a hearing to determine if the boy is competent to stand trial.

The burden of proof is on the prosecution; under Michigan law, children younger than 10 years are considered incompetent.

“He doesn’t even know what a trial is, or what a defendant is, or what an attorney is,” Clapp said.

Prosecutors have said they have no intention of convicting the boy, and that they filed the charge to make sure he gets help.