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Authorities charge 14-year-old boy in fatal shooting of his father in Shawnee

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013, at 4:01 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 4, 2013, at 9:46 a.m.

Prosecutors charged a 14-year-old boy Wednesday with first-degree murder in the Tuesday afternoon shooting death of his father.

Darren E. Gay, 46, of Kansas City, Kan., was killed outside a Shawnee auction business near 47th Street and Frisbie Road.

Police said the boy’s mother and stepfather had brought the boy to the location for an arranged custody exchange shortly before the shooting. The boy was at the scene when police arrived.

Dalton Gay, who turns 15 in September, was charged in the juvenile division of Johnson County District Court with one count of premeditated first-degree murder. A court appearance is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Olathe attorney Trey Pettlon was appointed to represent Dalton Gay.

“It’s too early for me to comment,” Pettlon said Wednesday. “I’m still in the process of gathering information, but I think there’s going to be more to the story.”

Friends of Dalton said Wednesday that he frequently spoke of his dad hitting him and lately had spoken of suicide.

“One night he was acting different and I had to keep asking him what was wrong,” said friend Stephanie Michael, also 14. “He told me his dad was always mean to him, he always beat him and everything, and he was so done with it and he just wanted to kill himself.”

Stephanie said Dalton told her he had a pistol, but she doesn’t know where he got it.

More recently Dalton began posting images and slogans about guns on Instagram.

One image had the drawing of a pistol with the words, “I don’t dial 911.” Another said, “Gun control means using both hands.”

“I didn’t really think anything about it … and then I realized he was posting a lot of stuff about guns,” Stephanie said.

Another friend who attended Basehor-Linwood High School with Dalton said he is usually happy, is well liked and makes people laugh. He ran track and played football. She said his friends were shocked about what happened.

The friend said Dalton spent every other weekend with his father.

According to Johnson County District Court documents, Darren Gay and his former wife had been involved in a sometimes contentious domestic relations case since she filed for divorce in 2000. The records show that he was scheduled to appear in court Friday for failing to keep up with his $200 semimonthly child support payments.

Gay owed more than $5,800 in back child support, according to the documents. In another case, he was ordered in May to pay more than $3,300 for unpaid rent to a former apartment landlord.

According to documents in the domestic relations case, an attorney for Gay’s former wife alleged in a 2009 filing that he had been verbally abusive to his son on the telephone. The filing also alleged that the boy had to sleep on a couch or in the same bed with his father and his father’s girlfriend. That motion sought to restrict Gay’s visitation time with his son and designated that their meetings to exchange custody should occur in a police station parking lot.

In an earlier filing in the case, a court-appointed case manager laid out specific rules of conduct that the parents were supposed to follow in the presence of their son.

Those guidelines included no “arguing or fighting or throwing things,” no speaking negatively about each other in the boy’s presence and no use of inappropriate language.

It also stated that email or writing should be the mode of communication “in order to de-escalate the situation between the parents.”

The filing noted that the boy was seeing a therapist, and that he and his father should participate in family therapy together. Darren Gay was instructed to undergo an anger management evaluation.

Though instances of parents being killed by their children are rare, national statistics show that 250 to 400 adults die at the hands of their children each year, according to Paul Mones, an attorney and author of the book “When a Child Kills.”

In the vast majority of parricide cases, the perpetrator is a boy and the victim is the father, said Mones, who has offices in Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., and has represented hundreds of juveniles accused of serious crimes.

Baltimore psychiatrist Jack Vaeth, who has studied the parricide phenomenon, said cases generally fall into three categories. The least common is when the killer is suffering from a severe mental illness and is experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations.

More common are instances where the child has experienced emotional, sexual or physical abuse, often for a long time.

The third category involves cases where the child perceives that the parent is a barrier to something the child wants. Vaeth said those cases are the “trickiest” because they involve a child who commits a “rather heinous act” just to get something he wants.

Mones said guns are the most commonly used weapons. Typically they are already present in the family home.

The average age of perpetrators is 16, and they usually have no or very minor previous criminal records, Mones said.

Neither Shawnee police or the Johnson County district attorney’s office would comment Wednesday on the motive or circumstances that led to Tuesday’s shooting.

The county has experienced few other such cases in recent years.

In 2002, an 18-year-old mentally ill Olathe man killed his mother and great-aunt. He later was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

In 2005, a 16-year-old Overland Park girl stabbed her mother to death. According to later court testimony, the girl had experienced extreme emotional abuse at the hands of her mother. She pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Vaeth said that though researchers can break parricide cases into general categories, their relative rarity doesn’t provide enough information for conducting valid scientific studies. Fewer than 1 percent of homicides annually involve a child killing a parent.

“It’s not a very common crime,” he said.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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