The teen who’d been bullied and assaulted didn’t want to talk at first.
It was late March, and I had just interviewed the autistic 16-year-old’s mother at a Southern Maryland pizzeria. She brought me back to her home in St. Mary’s County to see whether her high-functioning son, whose alleged abuse by two girls from his high school has generated outrage, would want to recount what had happened.
According to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department charging documents, the older of the two girls allegedly held a large kitchen knife to the boy’s throat — twice. Another time, both girls coerced him into walking over a frozen pond, into which he fell numerous times while they stood by and videotaped on a cellphone.
The parents, who want the girls jailed for a long time, hoped that since he wasn’t talking much about the case to them, maybe he’d open up to me. He listened to my pitch, emphatically said no, and then retreated to his bedroom.
But two weeks later, the boy changed his mind. The boy, who wants to be identified by his middle name, Michael, decided it was time for him to offer his perspective. Surprisingly, Michael wanted to publicly advocate for the two Chopticon High School students charged: Lauren A. Bush, 17, who has been charged as an adult, and his 15-year-old girlfriend, who was charged as a juvenile and whose cellphone contained footage of the assaults that led to their arrest in early March. (The Washington Post generally does not identify juveniles.)
Michael considers the girls his friends, though he acknowledged that some of their “games” frightened him.
“In my opinion, they did me a favor,” Michael said, during our interview at his home, where his father listened in. “They helped me toughen up.”
After the arrests, Michael said he tried calling his girlfriend, who is being held in a juvenile detention center. But her phone went straight to voice mail. He said his relationship with the girl was strange: She forced him to refer to her as Hannah when talking about their relationship with other people, he said.
“We didn’t hold hands in the hallway. No one knew we were dating. I don’t know why,” he said. “She didn’t want it to become public all over social media.”
Though his parents are furious about the alleged assaults, Michael said he is not traumatized and hopes the girls are released as soon as possible. “In my opinion, it’s all nonsense,” said Michael, who takes regular classes at school and gets decent grades but has trouble interpreting social cues.
In late 2013, Michael befriended the two girls. Michael said the girls would come over to his house, where he’d drive them around in his family’s truck. “We’d go four-wheeling. We’d go off-road. I’d drive,” he said. “I did donuts one time.”
When the girls were arrested last month, Michael felt bad for Bush because she got charged as an adult and because she was being attacked online. He got especially upset, he said, when he saw the comments attached to a story in the New York Daily News.
“One thing people kept talking about was her mug shot and saying, ‘Oh, her eyes are too close together.’ ‘Oh, they should be [severely punished],’ and stuff like that,” he said. “I was just like, ‘People are really taking this seriously.’ . . . My mind was blown.”
By Ian Shapira,
© The Washington Post Company