The worst nightmare of his life began more than a year and a half ago, but Joe D. Pittman’s biggest fear may come true today.
His 14-year-old son, accused of killing his grandparents Pittman’s parents in November 2001, goes today before a Family Court judge to determine if he will be tried as an adult.
“It’s a long shot, but I’d like to see them keep him in the juvenile system,” Pittman said Tuesday, hours after visiting his son at the Department of Juvenile Justice Detention Center in Columbia. “My biggest fear is that they’re going to try him as an adult, which I’m 95 percent sure of.”
His son expressed a similar belief in a recent letter. If that’s the case, Pittman said, the boy could face up to 30 years in prison.
On Nov. 29, 2001, authorities said the then 12-year-old shot and killed Joe Frank Pitt-man, 66, and Joy Rob-erts Pittman, 62, before setting their rural Ches-ter County home on fire and fleeing. He was found the next day in Cherokee County and charged with two counts of murder. An arson charge was added later.
In the months prior, the boy, whose name has not been released because of his age, was diagnosed as clinically depressed and prescribed a regimen of Paxil and Zoloft, powerful anti-depressants.
His father, though admittedly once confused about what drove his son to such an act, now believes the drugs are the culprit.
“I’m convinced 100 percent now that it was the medication,” he said. “It’s right there on the Internet for anyone to look at.”
Pittman only learned of today’s hearing late last week and arrived in Chester from Florida on Monday. On Tuesday, he was frustrated he could not meet with Chester County Solicitor John Justice to share his findings a collection of articles he’s clipped from newspapers and downloaded from the Internet that point to the potential dangers of children taking Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac also known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Those include an online article by Maureen Gordon, president of the National Health Federation, claiming despite concerns about prescribing antidepressants to youths, some 580,000 children were prescribed SSRIs in 1996 alone. She also claims more than 6 million kids are now on psychotropic drugs, including an Oregon teen who killed his parents and two students at his high school as well as one of the Columbine High School shooters in Colorado.
Another example of violent crimes committed by children on anti-depressants is a California teen who stabbed his grandmother 61 times five days after being prescribed Paxil.
Some experts, however, say there’s no credible scientific evidence linking the drugs to violent behavior.
During their visit Tuesday, Pittman’s son gave him another clip for his file a copy of a recent Associated Press story given to him by a detention center guard. The headline read “FDA says Paxil not for children.”
The finding just goes further to convince Pittman of the reason behind his son’s actions.
“I just can’t get anyone else to listen,” he said.