By Nina Harrelson firstname.lastname@example.org
The arrest of a Kearney teen with Asperger's syndrome accused of beating his mother with a baseball bat is raising questions about the availability of mental health services in Nebraska.
Seventeen-year-old Trevor Roberts allegedly posted about wanting to kill his family on Facebook before attacking his mom with a bat Sunday. She suffered minor injuries to her arms and legs.
Police say Roberts also expressed a desire to be like notorious murderer Charles Starkweather.
Starkweather and his girlfriend killed 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming in the 1950s. He was also a teenager at the time and was executed just 17 months after his arrest.
Roberts is charged with use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and second-degree assault, but family members say he's just a kid who needs help.
"I can tell you he is smart good student. He is active in all kinds of activities. Yes, what he did was wrong. Who hasn't made mistakes in their life?" Keith Roberts, the teen's father, said in a post on the NTV Facebook page. "Its part of his asburgers (sic) disorder. As being his Dad, I love him very much and would go through anything for him. His comment about serial killers was inappropriate he just wanted attention."
A friend of the family expressed support for the teen and his parents on the NTV Facebook page, and asked others in the community to support the Roberts family.
"These parents have taken advantage of nearly every program, counseling/therapy option, school offering, etc., that they could get their hands on," Karen Shultz said. "The [high school] and students are proud of Trevor for doing as much as he does with the issues he suffers from. I implore you to never point a finger, never judge and never say 'not my kid,' as often times is (sic) sneaks up and bites you! Let's use this as a community to surround this family with support and understanding."
Roberts is diagnosed with Asperger's -- a form of autism -- and is also bi-polar, court records say.
Court documents also say the teen was taken to Richard Young Hospital in Kearney for evaluation, but because they -- and every other mental health center in the state -- were full, Roberts was taken to the Buffalo County Jail.
But officials at Richard Young -- though they can't comment specifically on this case -- say they never turn away someone who qualifies for care.
"Whether or not the hospital is full, Richard Young will provide a comprehensive medical and mental health assessment of an individual to determine if he or she meets the criteria for inpatient treatment," Director of Behavioral Health Ann Taylor-Trujillo said. "If an individual qualifies for that level of care but no space is available, Richard Young will keep them until we can locate an appropriate alternative for them and will assist with a smooth transfer.
Statewide budget cuts have also put a strain on the hospital, forcing them to slash their patient numbers in half.
"We've just had to streamline the services that we provide and make sure that we're
providing the services to the most critical population in terms of those that have the
most critical needs," Taylor-Trujillo said.
Roberts' bond has been set at $50,000 cash or surety. He is scheduled to appear in court next month.