Court Hearing Expected in 9-Year-Old Stowaway Case

Updated: 10/14/2013 7:36 AM By: Leslie Dyste

The father of the boy who snuck onto a plane headed for Las Vegas. He was at a news conference Wednesday, wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up to conceal his identity.
The father of the boy who snuck onto a plane headed for Las Vegas. He was at a news conference Wednesday, wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up to conceal his identity.

A 9-year-old who snuck onto a plane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and flew to Las Vegas has returned to Minnesota.

The boy flew back to town Saturday, according to the spokesperson for the family, V.J. Smith with MADDADs.

Smith said a court hearing is expected this week, and the boy's parents will likely make a statement after the hearing.

The boy began running away from home last summer for days at a time, according to a child protection petition.

The Child in Need of Protection or Services petition, which is referred to as a CHIPS petition, was filed Friday, Oct. 11, in Hennepin County Juvenile Court, according to the county attorney's office. The petition starts the juvenile court proceedings.

History with Child Protection

The boy, who KSTP is not identifying because of his age, was placed on a police hold Sept. 18 after he was found at the Midtown YWCA unsupervised, swimming in the pool when the facility was closing, according to the petition. YWCA staff called police after the boy refused to say who his parents were or give any other information. When police arrived, he refused to give officers his name and was taken to St. Joseph's Home for Children.

A child protection investigation began at the time and was later completed.

The boy's mother told an investigator that her son had disappeared while on a trip to Target in downtown Minneapolis, the petition said. She alerted the store's security, who reviewed surveillance camera footage of the boy leaving the store.

She told the child protection investigator that her son had a pattern of becoming absent, the petition said. In August, she said the boy left home to go to the library and didn't return the next day. The boy's mother called police and later found the boy in a park. During the interview, she told investigators that the boy has behavioral issues and has been seeing a therapist.

The investigation ended when county staff found no maltreatment or neglect in the case.

On Oct. 8 - after the boy went to Las Vegas - his mother was interviewed again by child protection. She said her son hadn't been to school since he was suspended for aggressive behavior, according to the petition. He was suspended previously for behavioral issues, she said. During the day, the boy goes with his father to work and stays home with her when she's not working.

The boy usually leaves when he's upset and goes to a nearby playground or to his friend's house without permission, she said. He also has a tendency to spend the night at people's homes without permission.

On Oct. 2, the boy was gone overnight, his mother said, according to the petition. She reported him missing the next day. She wasn't aware that he flew to Las Vegas, she said. His mother denied using physical discipline against the boy.

The boy's mother "supports an evaluation placement" for the boy.

Nearly 1,000 CHIPS petitions are filed each year in Hennepin County.

"In general, these cases involve formulating a plan that evaluates the issues presented, identifying services to be made available to the parents and child to address those issues and providing a social worker to support the family and oversee continuing case management," according to the county attorney's office.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office represents the county's child protection investigators and social workers. The parents can also be represented by an attorney. "The paramount consideration is the best interest of the child and that determination is made by the Hennepin County District Court judge hearing the case," according to the county attorney's office.

Boy Goes to Las Vegas

The boy's father, who concealed his identity, pleaded and cried Wednesday for help with controlling his son.

The boy left his house last week after saying he was going to take the trash out, his father said. After that, the boy never came back. His parents assumed he was at a friend's house.

The boy was making the trip to meet someone he had met online, MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan said Tuesday. The boy possibly met the person through a video game. His mother told authorities that the family has no friends or family in Las Vegas.

The boy reportedly took a light rail train to the airport on both Wednesday, Oct. 2, and Thursday, Oct. 3. Before boarding the flight for Las Vegas without a ticket, the boy spent at least part of his time at Hot Dish, a restaurant in Terminal 1, where he reportedly ordered food then left without paying, said Hot Dish server Jacob Smith.

In Las Vegas, authorities placed the boy in a shelter, but later hospitalized him when he became aggressive, the petition said. The boy was later placed to a residential facility in Las Vegas.

The boy also has been connected to stealing a large delivery truck Oct. 1 at United Noodles in Minneapolis. The boy drove the truck on Interstate 35W to south Minneapolis, and eventually crashed into a squad car in Edina, the petition reported. The boy was uncooperative when police caught him and he was released to his mother.

During Wednesday's news conference, the boy's father confirmed that his son stole the vehicle. He said the boy told police he thought he was playing Grand Theft Auto, a video game.

Read more about the case here.