Hennepin County judge orders therapy for 9-year-old stowaway and his family

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 16, 2013 - 8:24 PM

A Hennepin County judge ruled that the 9-year-old will not live at home while he and his family undergo evaluation and therapy.

The 9-year-old boy who flew from the Twin Cities to Las Vegas without a ticket will not live at home for a few weeks while he and his family undergo evaluation and therapy, a Hennepin County District judge ruled Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, the child slipped past Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport security and a Delta Air Lines gate agent to board a flight on his own. He was detained in Las Vegas and later returned to the Twin Cities.

At a subdued 20-minute court hearing triggered by a child protection petition filed last week, Judge Joseph Klein determined that the “health, safety and welfare” of the boy would be “endangered” if he were immediately returned to his mother’s custody.

The child didn’t attend, although both of his parents did, accompanied by attorneys who spoke for them.

The petition did not allege that the boy has been physically abused and said his mother is willing to work with the county to help the boy. Both parents will be allowed to visit and call their son.

Attorney Bob Paule, who represented the boy’s mother, said, “She wants to get her family back together and have her son return home.”

The next court hearing is set for Nov. 20.

In the meantime, Klein ordered individual and family therapy and that the county help cover related transportation costs. He said the mother and father should receive parenting training and evaluations, and that the boy’s mother, who has legal custody, should work with his school to have him assessed for special education services.

The judge also ordered a “kinship study,” an evaluation of relatives, neighbors and other significant figures in the boy’s life as possible future guardians.

The child protection petition said the boy had been suspended from school because of aggressive behavior and had a history of taking leave from his home without telling his parents where he was going.

After the boy flew to Las Vegas, his father publicly pleaded for help at a dramatic news conference in which he concealed his identity with a pulled-down baseball cap and tightly tied hoodie.

Before the court session, the judge denied a request from Paule to close the courtroom and the files to the public. In Minnesota, hearings for children in need of protective services are open unless there is a finding of “exceptional circumstances.” Klein said such conditions didn’t exist here.

After the incident, the Twin Cities airport underwent a security review that resulted in some changes, including at the presecurity checkpoints where passengers present their boarding passes and other documents.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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