As the parent of two boys, I learned that if you tell your kids you're going to do something, you need to do it. If time after time you tell them they will be punished for misbehaving, and time after time you keep giving them more chances, they will soon figure out your threats mean nothing. Last spring, then-17-year-old Andrew Wyman of Willmar went on a month-long multi-county crime spree with a buddy, Chase Hodapp. They had a great time...stealing pickups, starting them on fire, even setting one up to drive by itself until it crashed into a tree on 19th Avenue Southwest. They broke into garages and had broken into the Minnick Family home on Southeast 9th Street when they decided to start it on fire...while the 7 members of the family were asleep inside. The Minnicks ran a daycare out of their home, so it was their business also, and had an extensive smoke alarm system which literally saved their lives.
Eventually Wyman and Hodapp were caught. Wyman's case file was as thick as a Minneapolis phone book, with more charges than an electric fence. Eventually, after a lot of figuring, computing and bargaining, Wyman entered into a complex plea agreement last September that kept him out of prison. There were a lot of strings attached, including that he stay at the unlocked Prairie Lakes Juvenile Facility until he is 21. I was at the sentencing and saw the baby-faced Wyman weep on the stand, saying he was sorry and begging for mercy. Judge Kathryn Smith sternly told him "If you violate terms of probation, your life is essentially over" referring to a 6-year prison term hanging over his head.
Well, while at Prairie Lakes Wyman did not behave himself and was cited several times for violations, including throwing a tantrum when he was not allowed to go home for Thanksgiving, and another incident while working at Goodwill Industries. Eventually Wyman figured he had so many violations, they might consider throwing him in prison, so in February, he and a buddy made dummies, put them in their beds, and took off. Wyman says he thumbed his way to Los Angeles were he lived as a homeless man for a month until finally phoning his parents, who sent him a bus ticket to come home. But instead of turning himself in, he moved in with his father near New London until the police caught up with him in late March. Police say he tested positive for marijuana, and got into a fight with another inmate in the county jail.
This week he went back before Judge Smith for a probation revocation hearing, and again he tearfully begged for another chance. He went through a long list he had preparred to turn his life around, including getting a job, going to college, keeping up with probation etcetra. I thought there would be smoke coming out of Judge Smith's ears after the way the way she went out on a limb to keep him out of prison in the first place, but instead, she told lawyers for both sides to give her a list of programs she could place Wyman in to keep him out of prison. She will decide his fate May 17th. We will see what lesson Wyman will learn...either A: That if you burn down a house full of people, you go to prison, or B: If you tearfully beg for mercy, they will keep giving you another chance.