Shabazz's grandson sent to treatment center
Boy who started deadly fire confined at least 18 monthsAugust 8, 1997
Web posted at: 7:57 p.m. EDT (2357 GMT)
YONKERS, New York (CNN) -- The 12-year-old grandson of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, who admitted starting the fire that killed his grandmother in June, will be held at least 18 months in a Massachusetts youth facility.
Friday afternoon, Yonkers Family Court Judge Howard Spitz ordered the boy sent to the Hillcrest Education Center in Lenox, where he will be treated for emotional problems. The center is known for its treatment of people at high risk of starting fires.
Spitz ordered that the boy remain in Hillcrest for at least 18 months, but the term could be extended until he is 18 years old.
The boy pleaded guilty last month to setting the June 1 blaze in the Yonkers apartment of Shabazz, 63, the widow of the slain civil rights leader. She died June 23 from her injuries.
The boy has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Experts testified at court hearings that he has had a long and unusual interest in fires, dating back to when he was a toddler. He had even created an imaginary cartoon character he named "Sinister Torch."
Doctor says boy wants to get on with life
At the start of Friday's hearing, Dr. Don Heacock, a consultant to the court, said of the boy, "His morale is good, and he is looking forward to getting on with his life."
The boy arrived at the courthouse in shackles that caused him to stumble as he walked. His face was covered. During the hearing, his mother, Qubilah Shabazz, sat near her son and frequently stroked his hand.
The choice of Hillcrest came over the objections of Shabazz's family. Their attorney, Percy Sutton, called Hillcrest "dreary" and asked that the boy be sent to another facility in Virginia.
However, an expert for the prosecution testified that the Virginia facility had a high escape rate and that children staying there had reportedly started fires.
New York probation official Joseph DeCarlo testified that Hillcrest was the least restrictive facility that would offer the necessary security while addressing the boy's needs. He said few treatment centers would accept patients labeled as fire starters.
Correspondent Norma Quarles and Reuters contributed to this report.
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