Manzies say son realized he needed help – In ’20/20′ interview, they tell of ‘nightmare’ days before murder — (The Newark Star-Ledger)

SSRI Ed note: Angry, "unpredictable" teen in sexual identity crisis prescribed Paxil, warns he feels like harming a young person, is ignored, kills a boy, 11. Gets 70 years.

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The Newark Star-Ledger  (NJ)

October 31, 1997

Author: Brian T. Murray; Star-Ledger Staff

Sam Manzie’s parents say their son “knew he needed help” and wanted to be committed to a psychiatric facility in the days before he allegedly killed Eddie Werner.

The 15-year-old had become so aggressive and unpredictable that “it was like living a nightmare in our house,” said the teen’s mother, Dolores Manzie, in a joint interview with her husband, Nicholas, that airs tonight on ABC’s “20/20.”

Sam was aware, too, that he was dangerously out of control, according to his mother. “He said, ‘I’ll go in a minute.’ He wanted help. He just didn’t know how to do it. He didn’t know how to ask for it.”

With Ocean County prosecutors pushing to try their son as an adult in the sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Eddie, the Jackson Township couple decided to make their case in a taped interview with Barbara Walters.

The parents, who oppose an adult trial, talked of the confusion their son felt over his emerging homosexuality, how they were rebuffed by experts while struggling to get him confined and how they can trace the trouble back to August 1996.

That month is when, unknown to them, their son began a sexual relationship with Stephen P. Simmons, 43, of Long Island, a twice-convicted child molester.

“We had no idea,” Dolores Manzie said in the interview. “They know now that all that isolation in his room was probably of pain, that violence was his crying out for help.”

But the appeal for compassion does not sit well with Eddie’s parents. The Werner family has been upset that Manzie’s troubled background might be viewed as an excuse for Eddie’s death.

“He is not the victim,” Valerie Werner, the slain boy’s mother, said earlier this week.

Werner expressed disgust at an ABC news release promoting the segment, which said the Manzies will speak about what they’ve gone through in “the agonizing weeks” since Sam’s arrest. But yesterday, she and the rest of the Werner family opted not to respond after a partial transcript was released by ABC.

At the same time that excerpts of the interview were being distributed, Simmons was the subject of a bail hearing in Monmouth County, where he is being held on charges that he sexually abused Manzie.

Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Fliedner successfully urged a judge in Freehold to keep Simmons jailed in lieu of $225,000 bail.

During the “20/20” interview, the Manzies said Sam had told them he was homosexual when he was 14, and the boy was “tortured” by guilt over his sexual identity.

“Sam knew how much I was devoted to Catholicism, and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why,” Nick Manzie said.

Although unaware of his liaisons with Simmons, the Manzies said their son became increasingly withdrawn.

“He was in his room all the time, and even when I knocked at the door, he wouldn’t answer,” Dolores Manzie said. “I was getting to the point where it was like living a nightmare in our house.”

The pressure grew when Manzie’s therapist informed authorities in Monmouth County, where most of the teen’s liaisons with Simmons occurred. Detectives began using the boy to build a case against the New Yorker.

“They were giving us dates to come in for statements, they were coming to the house,” Dolores Manzie said. “Everything got so crazy that we forgot about Sam, his feelings.”

A week before the murder, Manzie exploded and refused to cooperate any more, ripping a recording device off the family phone.

“I thought that was the end of the line,” his mother said.

At one point, Sam threw a TV remote control at his father.

“The look in his eyes when he was looking at me was one of – I was terrified,” Nicholas Manzie said. “Just by his look, looking at me, as if he wanted to really hurt me bad.”

On Sept. 24, the Manzies appeared before a Family Court judge in Toms River to ask that Sam be committed to a residential treatment center. But they were told that their son belonged at home.

“I saw him that day standing in court, and I just looked at him, and here everybody was saying you know, ‘There’s nothing wrong with this kid,'” his mother said. “I’m thinking, ‘God, what kind of mother am I to think I have a kid that needs to be put away?'”

Added her husband: “At that point we were thinking, ‘Well, there are all these professionals that had seen Sam and said that he is not homicidal, not suicidal, he’s okay. And the judge telling us that he’s okay, and there’s no place to stay. We must be wrong.'”

Three days after the hearing, Eddie Werner disappeared while selling candy door- to-door in the Manzies’ neighborhood. His body was later found in a wooded area near their Iowa Court home.

Authorities say Manzie lured the child inside the house while his parents were away, sexually molested him, then strangled him.

Since Manzie’s arrest, his parents have visited him several times in jail.

“The very first time I saw him, he walked through the door and I was wanting to hug him, and just be with him,” his mother said. “And he just looked at me right in the face and said, ‘I need help.'”

But even his parents can’t say if he feels remorse.  “I’m not even sure of that. I mean, I’m not sure of anything because he just stares blankly ahead,” his mother said. “Like we’re not even in the room with him.”

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Eddie Was Murdered. Sam’s Doing 70 Years. But Who Is to Blame? — (The New York Times)

DOLORES MANZIE stood up, dazed, as the pedophile accused of seducing her son was led from the courtroom. On this July afternoon, the Superior Court judge had just dismissed all but two minor charges against the defendant, Stephen P. Simmons, for lack of evidence. Leaning limply against a bench in the Monmouth County courtroom, Mrs. Manzie said, ”We’d be better off if we’d done nothing.”

To their way of thinking, Mrs. Manzie and her husband, Nicholas, had done so much in trying to turn around the life of their son, Samuel Manzie, who is better known as a killer than as a victim.

It has been three years since Sam, then 14, began an intense relationship with Mr. Simmons, a bulky, middle-aged New Yorker who to this day has Sam’s loyalty. And it has been two years since Sam lured 11-year-old Eddie Werner into his house in Jackson Township, then strangled the child.

In the year between those events, Sam was sullen, belligerent and sometimes destructive. He stopped attending the Catholic boys school where he had started with grades that put him near the top of his class.

The Manzies sought out the authorities — counselors and psychiatrists, then the police and prosecutors, and finally the family court. They were told to find treatment for Sam, which they did, and when he became violent they were told that the State of New Jersey had no place to put him, not even for one night. At the end, they were assured that Sam was not dangerous.

The Manzies have one especially painful recollection. They say Sam disclosed that before he killed Eddie Werner, he told his psychiatrist he wanted to hurt a child. There is no way to know what Sam said, or whether the doctor responded in some way. But after the murder, by the Manzies’ account, Sam told his mother: ”He didn’t listen to me. If he had listened to me, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Sam’s history has many gaps, since medical records and many legal documents are sealed. Indeed, New Jersey’s courts and law-enforcement agencies are among the most restrictive in the nation. Sam, now 17, refused to testify at Mr. Simmons’s trial last month, and he declined to be interviewed for this article. In addition, several lawyers connected with cases involving him did not return repeated calls.

But much of what happened to Sam in 1996 and 1997 has come out in open court and judicial opinions. And from those records, along with interviews with the Manzies, Mr. Simmons, police officers, court officials, lawyers and others, a sad chronology can be pieced together.

As Sam settles into a 70-year sentence at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, locked down 23 hours a day, he is viewed variously as an emotionally fragile adolescent who was twisted by a child molester, as a guilt-ridden young man who broke under pressure to betray his lover and as a psychopath who happens to be young.

But most people agree that somehow the authorities who were asked to intervene failed Sam, his parents, and ultimately Eddie Werner. The questions focus on several points in the months before Sam became a murderer:

  • The decision by Monmouth County prosecutors to enlist Sam, a 14-year-old under psychiatric care, in a sting operation to catch Mr. Simmons.
  • A psychiatric emergency unit’s judgment in the week before the murder, that Sam was not a danger to himself or others.
  • The decision by a family court judge to send Sam home despite his parents’ pleas to find a bed for him until they could complete the admissions process at a residential psychiatric center.

Sam’s unraveling surely cannot be attributed to any one official bad judgment, and many wonder what in his childhood might have led him to seek the affections of a 42-year-old man in the first place. A big part of the problem was that the Manzies were never told by people who should have known about help they could have received much earlier. Nevertheless, as people cast about for explanations, the blame is flying.

For their part, Eddie Werner’s parents are preparing a civil suit against the health centers that dealt with Sam. And the State Senate Judiciary Committee is planning hearings on the family court system. ”The system really failed a young man here,” said Senator John J. Matheussen, a Gloucester County Republican who sits on the panel.

In addition, the Whitman Administration is examining the lines of communication between state agencies. Secretary of State DeForest Soaries Jr., who is organizing the effort to better coordinate the services for troubled children, pointed to gaps between the criminal justice system, directed by the executive branch, and the courts, under the judicial branch.

”If there’s no systematic institutional way to address the needs of that kid,” Mr. Soaries said, ”we’re just passing this kid from branch to branch, and the kid ends up in Trenton State Prison.”

After Sam pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced in April, Mr. Soaries acted as Governor Whitman’s emissary to the Manzies. He went to their house, extended condolences, and posed a question. In Mr. Manzie’s words, ”he asked us, ‘What can the state do that it didn’t do?’ ”

Nathaniel J. Pallone, a clinical psychologist and criminologist at Rutgers who is an expert in the treatment of sex offenders, said, ”The guilt is divisible in the death of Eddie.” At one point in his listing of blameworthy parties, Dr. Pallone asked why, in the days before the murder, Sam was not hospitalized. ”Who is in a better position than the parent to know that the kid is out of control?” he said.

Mrs. Manzie lamented ”a disastrous series of things, including Sam himself; I’m not letting the kid off the hook.”

”Why does it even matter?” she asked one night recently, exhausted from a long shift at her job waiting tables and still incredulous that Mr. Simmons had ended up pleading guilty to only two minor charges. ”Sam got what he got, and the only thing to come out of all this madness is to make sure it never happens again.”

The Manzies moved to Jackson with their two children, Sam and an older sister, in 1987, buying a house in a newer subdivision that was a long commute to Mr. Manzie’s job as a trucking company manager in North Jersey. Sam was enrolled at the Holy Family School in Lakewood.

When he was in the first grade, school officials noted behavior problems and recommended a psychological evaluation for Sam. The psychologist reported, ”He presents himself as a sad little boy who fights a lot.” Mrs. Manzie does not remember fights; rather, she said, Sam would fume silently, refusing to communicate anger or hurt.

He had some disciplinary troubles in grammar school, which the Manzies said were not serious. The boy was bright beyond question, entering ninth grade at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft in 1996 with an excellent record. His father said Sam wanted to be a historian.

But he had few friends, shunned sports and acquired the nickname ”Manzie the pansy.” He did not entirely hide his distress from his parents. Mr. Manzie said that when Sam was 12 or 13, he confided that he wanted to kill himself ”because nobody understands me.” After a long conversation, Mr. Manzie said, ”I thought I got through to him.”

Mrs. Manzie said that ”Sam was something like a nerd,” spending hours at his computer. His parents say they did not know that Sam, who had told his mother that he thought he might be a homosexual, was frequenting a chat room for gay men and boys.

Toward the end of his freshman year, he stopped attending school. The Manzies said he got sick and then, having missed so many classes, refused simply refused to return. They said school officials would not take him back unless he got psychiatric treatment; they found out only after his murder arrest, they said, that Sam had written a sexually explicit note to a male teacher.

The Manzies now date Sam’s troubles to the summer before high school, when he met Mr. Simmons, then 42 and a convicted pedophile, in the gay chat room.

In a telephone interview from the Monmouth County Jail, where he is awaiting sentencing for criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child, Mr. Simmons said Sam was the pursuer.

”I’d say 95 percent of the kids I knew on line, I made the first contact,” Mr. Simmons said. ”Here was this supposedly sweet kid from New Jersey giving me his phone number — he gave everyone his number — and he said, can we meet?”

The two did meet, at the Freehold Mall in August 1996, and Sam spent that night at Mr. Simmons’s house in Holbrook, Long Island. When he returned to his frantic parents the next day with a concocted story about sleeping in the woods, Mr. Manzie testified at the Simmons trial, ”I put my arm around him and he pushed me away and looked at me with a hate I’d see for a year thereafter.”

The Manzies said they learned about Mr. Simmons by calling the Long Island number that was showing up over and over on Sam’s escalating phone bills. When confronted, Mr. Simmons lied, telling Mr. Manzie that Sam was an on-line friend who helped him with computer problems. While the Manzies told him not to speak to their son anymore, they said they did not suspect a sexual relationship.

In that year before the murder, Mr. Simmons probably knew Sam better than anyone. The two met secretly several more times in New Jersey. Mr. Simmons maintains that he only fondled the teen-ager; Sam told investigators that the two engaged in oral and anal sex. Mostly, they talked, by phone or on line.

Mr. Simmons said it was obvious that Sam was disturbed. He said Sam boasted about his electronic cache of pornography — ”not only child pornography but bestiality, sex between men and boys, basically disgusting stuff.” He said Sam disclosed rape fantasies involving younger boys, told of setting fires and ”described what he did to animals when he was younger.”

”He did not like being who he was,” Mr Simmons said. ”He knew that this violence was there.” He also said Sam threatened suicide. ”He’d call me in the middle of the night and say, ‘What’s the easiest way to die? Should I drink Drano?’ ”

Mr. Simmons told Sam he should get psychiatric help — counsel that Sam’s father now describes as ”a pedophile grooming his prey.” Nonetheless, the Manzies were of the same opinion.

In the summer of 1997, they sent him to a psychiatrist who spent two sessions with Sam and then advised a structured program, saying that he could not provide adequate treatment.

By this time, Mr. Manzie said, ”I’d go into his room and say, ‘Dinner,’ and he’d throw something at me.” During one of Sam’s rages, when he threw a remote control at his father, Mr. Manzie called 911, and the police took Sam to the Psychiatric Emergency Screening Service at Kimball Medical Center, a private hospital in Lakewood. He was sent home that night.

In August, Sam started a day program at the Shoreline Behavioral Health Center in Toms River. The admitting diagnosis, according to his attorney’s statement at Sam’s sentencing 20 months later, was ”major depression psychosis.”

While Sam called Shoreline ”5 1/2-hour day care,” his mother said, he made some friends there. He began taking Paxil, an antidepressant. And he disclosed his relationship with Mr. Simmons to his psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Brancato Jr.

On learning of the relationship between the teen-age boy and the pedophile, the doctor notified the Division of Youth and Family Services, which made a report to prosecutors, and he summoned the Manzies.

The revelation aggravated the fights between Sam and his parents, especially his father, a strict Catholic who said rosaries every morning to pray that his son was not gay. Mr. Manzie would tell a family court judge a month later that ”the relationship in the house between my son and the rest of the family has quickly deteriorated.”

But when investigators from several law-enforcement agencies, led by Detective George Noble of the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office, asked the family for Sam’s help in a sting operation, ”everybody was on board,” Detective Noble said.

The detective said both Sam and his parents were ”more than willing to cooperate.” Mrs. Manzie was ”on a mission for justice,” he said, and both she and her son ”said this was part of the healing process.”

On learning that her son was going to cooperate with the investigation, she said she told him, ”I just want you to know I love you and I’ll support you.”

Sam and the investigators spent dozens of hours in conversation as he gave them details of the affair. Officer Guy Arancio of the Howell Police Department, assigned to the case because Mr. Simmons was believed to have taken Sam to a motel in Howell, said, ”He knew what happened was wrong, but it was basically built up as a fantasy to him.

”It was my own belief that this guy had manipulated the kid, and he was in love with this guy,” Officer Arancio said. ”He felt that this guy really loved him, and was always there when he wanted to talk to him.”

The few exchanges that were taped or taken from Sam’s computer hard drive show Mr. Simmons’s tone to be more charming than passionate, and they tend to support his contention that he was trying to distance himself from the boy. (Simmons: ”You know, like I hadn’t thought of you in several weeks.” Sam: ”Well, I thought of you like every day.”)

When the sting began, Sam had not spoken to Mr. Simmons for weeks, but he was to re-establish contact and record phone conversations.

He made two calls, on Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, with a recording device attached to the phone. The investigators who stood by said in interviews that Sam was matter-of-fact and efficient. After the first call, said Detective Noble, Sam was ”very happy” with the outcome.

But soon Sam turned on the investigators, taking a hammer to the recording device. He also called Mr. Simmons to warn him; it was the last contact they would have. It was Sunday night, Sept. 21.

Mr. Simmons said Sam told him he was ”terrified.”

”He was terrified of what they were going to do after he destroyed the equipment,” Mr. Simmons said. ”They told him if he didn’t cooperate, they were going to arrest him as an accessory to my crimes.”

In the box containing the smashed equipment, Sam left a note. Mr. Simmons, who saw it in investigators’ records requested by his lawyer, said he memorized it: ”Sometimes in our life we’re faced with difficult decisions, and we have to do what we know is right deep down in our heart, even if others tell us it’s wrong and even if we can get in trouble for it.”

Later, many people would question the wisdom of enlisting a troubled juvenile to gather evidence against a suspected sex offender. Dr. Pallone, the Rutgers psychologist, said: ”This is going to be a textbook example of how not to do things on the part of the prosecutor who is so anxious to rack up the conviction of a cyberspace chicken hawk that he hounds the victim to the breaking point.”

Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who founded the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins University, said adults’ punitive impulses can end up damaging the adolescent victim of sexual abuse. ”We have to be more aware,” Dr. Berlin said, ”of the possibility that he has fond feelings toward this guy most people want to send to jail for 30 years.”

But the investigators insist that over a three-week period, Sam showed no sign of instability or even ambivalence. Robert A. Honecker Jr., the second assistant prosecutor, said, ”If he had done anything that led investigators to believe he couldn’t help us, it would not have been done.”

Mr. Honecker added, ”It was his intent to assist.”

The morning after he destroyed the equipment, Sam reported to his day program, where he told someone what he had done. Shoreline notified the prosecutors and called in Mrs. Manzie. As Sam’s attorney, Michael Critchley, would later recount, Mrs. Manzie said at that meeting, ”We have to put him away now.”

The Manzies say Dr. Brancato and another therapist agreed to cooperate in transferring Sam to a residential program. Sam, meanwhile, seemed calm. That afternoon, the therapists sent him to the emergency psychiatric unit at Kimball, which serves as the emergency screening service for Ocean County’s family court.

Mrs. Manzie went, too, and by all accounts she was more upset than Sam, saying, among other things, ”I’ll slit my wrists if you make me take him home.”

”I was out of my mind,” Mrs. Manzie acknowledged, ”because they let this pedophile go, this man who abused my son, and they didn’t have a case. I said, this child is at the end of his rope.”

A psychiatrist interviewed Sam for 15 minutes and concluded that was not a danger to himself or others. In the meantime, Officer Arancio and Detective Noble arrived and, at Mrs. Manzie’s insistence, persuaded hospital employees to keep Sam overnight.

”Dolores was highly emotional,” Detective Noble said. ”She said, ‘I’m not taking him home. Nobody will listen to me.’ ” The detective said Sam and his mother had fought, and ”she was afraid he’d be violent.”

It is not clear whether Sam told anyone at Kimball that he wanted to leave. When the officers talked to him, Detective Noble said, Sam said he ”absolutely did not want to stay.”

When they asked him about the recording equipment, Detective Noble said: ”He said: ‘I busted it up. You might as well know I called Stephen and told him what we were doing.’ We asked him why, and he said, ‘I don’t know why, but I did it.’ ”

It is also not clear whether the emergency screening unit had Sam’s records from Shoreline. At Sam’s sentencing, Mr. Critchley said that ”no one at that Kimball Mental Health Center ever took the time to adequately review the records and speak to the psychiatrist at Shoreline Medical Center.”

A spokeswoman for the St. Barnabas Health System, the parent of both Kimball and Shoreline and a possible defendant in the Werners’ suit, said hospital officials would give no information or comment ”when litigation against the system is contemplated.” Dr. Brancato has been out of the country for two weeks and did not reply to messages left at his offices in Cumberland County, where he now works.

Even before Sam went to Kimball, the Manzies were scrambling to find a live-in program for him. Mr. Manzie was encouraged by a conversation with an official at Kidspeace in Allentown, Pa., an intensive residential program for children in emotional crisis.

Money was a problem. The Manzies were paying Shoreline $90 a day, the balance of the $450 fee not covered by their insurance. The insurance would not pay for the residential care at Kidspeace, which Mr. Manzie said cost $350 a day, but he proceeded to explore that program anyway, having Sam’s medical records faxed there.

While at Kimball, the Manzies said, they told Sam about Kidspeace. ”It was so sad,” Mrs. Manzie said, ”because all he said was, ‘Can I take my CD’s if I go?’ He knew he needed help.”

Sam left Kimball on Sept. 23, and that day Kimball referred the case to the Ocean County family court as a ”juvenile-family crisis.” Sam spent that night at Harbor House, a county shelter for runaways. The police had secured an emergency bed there, but because he was not a runaway, he could not stay any longer.

The next morning, the Manzies reported to the court’s family intervention unit, and Sam was interviewed by a probation officer, Paula H. Jacques. Mrs. Manzie estimated that the interview took six minutes. Ms. Jacques no longer works in the court system and could not be reached for comment.

Then, Mr. Manzie said, he and his wife were a little startled to find themselves before a judge. They stood at one table, Ms. Jacques and Sam at another.

The judge, James N. Citta, had the report from Kimball, though Mrs. Manzie said, ”I don’t know if he looked at it.” As far as they know, the Manzies said, he did not ask for Sam’s records from Shoreline. Judge Citta has declined to discuss the case.

She had just received the case, ”so I didn’t really have time to get into all the details.” She explained that Sam had ”got himself involved” with an older man and had ruined the investigation against him.

Moreover, she noted that Sam was already receiving better mental health services than her office could arrange. Then, calling it ”a horrible problem,” she concluded: ”But he is their child and he is their responsibility, and he’s going to get better faster if they help than they avoid it.”

Mr. Manzie told the judge, ”We are afraid of Sam.” He spoke of his son’s ”fits of rage,” including the time he threw the remote control and was taken to Kimball.

He said that Sam was going to Shoreline but that therapists there ”feel that Sam needs to be involved in a 24-hour program.” He offered to get statements from Dr. Brancato and another therapist, but the judge said that would not be necessary.

Mr. Manzie then described the efforts to place Sam at Kidspeace. ”Hopefully, in the interim, there is some place that Sam can go,” Mr. Manzie said, ”whether it be Harbor House or a foster home or . . .” The judge did not ask Sam whether he wanted an emergency placement, apparently because he had made clear that the resources available were very limited and that ”we don’t have the facilities to accommodate an inpatient.”

With that, Judge Citta sent Sam home. He urged the whole family to redouble their efforts to get along, and spoke sternly to Sam about obeying his parents.

”Now we can talk about Shoreline and we can talk about doctors and we can talk about social workers and we can talk about counselors,” the judge said, ”but the bottom line is, you know the difference between what’s right and wrong, don’t you? You’re not retarded, are you?”

”No,” Sam replied.

Allowing that a residential placement might turn out to be the best solution, the judge recommended family counseling first, saying, ”We might find out that we got through that without spending $350 a day.”

With that, the Manzies took Sam home.

”I wonder why the hell someone didn’t take him to the adolescent psychiatric unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Brunswick,” Dr. Pallone said. ”They certainly have ways of admitting a kid for a few days. Once the parents reach out and say to the formal structure of the state, ‘We’re at our wits’ end,’ the court could have reached out to DYFS. Why weren’t these things done?”

In fact, Mr. Manzie had learned from Kidspeace that the Division of Youth and Family Services was a possible avenue of help, along with the local school district. Public school services do not include emergency help, but they offer psychological examinations — like the one that Sam had undergone 10 years earlier.

Theodore Sussan, a lawyer in Spotswood with a special-education practice, said that if someone had advised the Manzies about the school district’s obligation, ”it might have turned out differently.” But, he added, ”I have been before many family court judges who had very little information on what a school district’s responsibility is.”

Under New Jersey law, if a child has disabilities that require residential treatment, even in an expensive, out-of-state facility, the district must pay tuition, residential fees and some non-medical expenses. ”Some of these kids are so psyched out they cannot receive education,” said Mr. Sussan.

Sometimes, Mr. Sussan said, the school district determines the problem is a family matter rather than an education matter — and therefore the responsibility of Youth and Family Services.

But Mr. Manzie said that no one except Kidspeace had raised either possibility.

When they took Sam home, the Manzies said, they were resigned, thinking that if so many people said he was not a danger to himself or others, then perhaps they had overreacted. But they still wanted to send him to Kidspeace, and Mrs. Manzie said that ”he would have been out the door if we had not gone to family court that day.”

On Sept. 25, Sam went back to Shoreline, and the Manzies said he was in good spirits On Saturday, Sept. 27, while Sam’s parents were away from ther house on business and he was at home alone, Eddie Werner happened by, selling candy for a school fund-raiser. Sam persuaded the child to come inside, then led him to his bedroom, unsuccessfully initiated oral sex and ordered the boy to strip.

Eddie, 4 feet, 8 inches tall and 70 pounds, was easily overpowered by Sam, who was over six feet tall. Sam strangled him with the cord to an alarm clock. While the rest of the family slept that night, Sam took the body into a wooded area nearby.

The next day, Mrs. Manzie heard about Eddie’s disappearance and suspected the worst. She asked Sam if he was involved. When he confessed, Mrs. Manzie turned Sam into the police, and on Oct.1 he was arrested.

Sam’s attorneys had planned a diminished capacity defense at his trial, which was scheduled for last spring in Ocean County Superior Court. But the youth defied them, and his parents, and pleaded guilty instead.

At his sentencing, Sam said: ”I still can’t figure out why I did what I did. I can honestly say I wanted to get help, and I did try to get it. I’m sorry for the people who had opportunity to treat me when I asked for it but they didn’t. I’m responsible in some ways, but in some ways they are responsible too. I committed the crime, but they had the opportunity to prevent it.”

That question of responsibility arose when Judge Citta appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his tenure hearing in June. In what has been his only public comment on the case, Judge Citta told the panel: ”That one particular case is a terrible tragedy. We’re all aware of that. I would suggest respectfully to each of you that you cannot imagine the number of times I’ve reviewed the evidence that I had before me that fateful day in 1997.”

That was not enough for 2 of the 10 committee members, including Senator Matheussen. One of many on the panel who voiced concerns about ”the system,” he said in a recent interview that many people had been derelict but that ”the only vote I had was against one person in that system.”

Still, Senator Matheussen acknowledged that a family court judge ”is flying by the seat of his or her pants.” And as to what the emergency screening center or the judge should have done with Sam, some say that even now it is all but impossible to know.

Steven M. Crimando, a consultant to many court systems who is certified as a mental-health screener in New Jersey’s family crisis units, said that ”the prediction of dangerousness is a very, very inexact science for any professional, whether it’s a legal person or a clinical person.”

”Honestly,” Mr. Crimando continued, ”most of the literature seems to say that even a professional trying to predict dangerousness does so with the accuracy of somebody flipping a coin.”

Moreover, the courts are cautious about imposing any duty to warn, especially when a privileged relationship, like that between therapist and patient, is involved. In civil suits, except when a specific person has been threatened, such a professional is generally not held liable for any harm the patient may go on to do.

”What is the psychiatrist going to do?” Mr. Crimando said. ”Put up a billboard?”

Sam’s attorneys are still fighting his 70-year murder sentence. They have filed a notice of appeal, and the deadline for submitting their brief is this week. One of the lawyers, John Vasquez, said it would argue that the sentence should be reduced to the minimum, 30 years, on the ground that the judge did not give adequate weight to Sam’s circumstances.

Mr. Simmons is to be sentenced Oct. 15. The Manzies say Sam wants to present a statement to the court.