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The Newark Star-Ledger (NJ)
October 31, 1997
Author: Brian T. Murray; Star-Ledger Staff
Note: Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, director in the International Coalition for Drug Awareness,confirmed through a phone conversation with Sam Manzie’s mother that he was being treated with Paxil at the time of this sexual attack and murder.
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.”