A Hennepin County judge has ruled that the 9-year-old boy who stowed away on a flight to Las Vegas and drove a stolen delivery truck into an Edina squad car should live separately from his parents for now while all three receive therapy.
During a Wednesday morning hearing, the boy’s parents sat silently in hooded sweatshirts, faces firm-set and unsmiling, as officials petitioned the court to intervene in their son’s life by providing protection or county services. The parents' backs faced the dozen or so local, regional and national reporters in attendance.
Judge Joseph Klein allowed the boy’s parents unlimited phone calls and visits to their son while he’s held in an “out-of-home placement,” where he was staying during the hearing. (Children under 10 are not permitted to attend Child in Need of Protection or Services, or CHIPS, hearings, said Michelle Johnson, the volunteer coordinator for the county’s Guardian ad Litem program.)
The mother’s attorney said she has been cooperating with officials since her son sneaked onto a Delta flight to Vegas on Oct. 3.
“She wants to get her family back together and have her son return home as soon as possible,” the attorney said.
The parents will join their son in family therapy, Klein ordered, and the boy will also start therapy on his own. The parents will also be asked to work with their son’s school to get him on social service assistance.
Judge Klein also ordered county staff to conduct a “kinship study,” which will look at aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives to determine potential homes where the 9-year-old boy could be relocated.
The petition outlines the boy’s significant behavior issues, including a suspension from school for “aggressive behavior,” an unsupervised trip to a Midtown YWCA swimming pool and a pattern of running away from home.
The boy, his mother and his father each had separate legal representation in the courtroom. All three attorneys requested that the judge close the hearing to the public. The attorneys lamented an internal email that was leaked to the Star Tribune and the high level of media coverage, including offers to pay the boy’s mother for her story.
Judge Klein ruled that the subject matter was “not intensely personal” enough to close the case to the public.
Expressing dismay at the leaked email, Klein said, “This court by closing these doors today cannot unring that bell.”
Going forward, all county staff members are being directed by the court not to speak about the 9-year-old's case, and Klein will consider closing some records.
The family is due back in court on Nov. 20.