By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times –
EL CAJON, Calif. — In this mobile home park full of boys darting around on scooters, Ryan Carter was known as the peacemaker. So when two of his friends got into an altercation Monday afternoon, the 12-year-old stepped in between them.
This time he wasn’t able to bring calm.
One of his playmates, a 10-year-old boy, got a kitchen knife and stabbed him to death, authorities said, leaving the boys’ families and neighbors grasping for explanations. On Wednesday, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced that the younger boy, whose name was withheld because of his age, is being charged with murder and felony assault and will be tried as a juvenile.
Outside the Carter home, flowers and votive candles lined the street where the two boys were often seen playing together. The 10-year-old defendant was described as an energetic but troubled child prone to fits of anger. But his friends seemed to know how to handle him, and many neighbors and friends couldn’t fathom the boy’s violent act.
“I’m pretty sure he thought it was like a cartoon. You stab him, he comes back to life,” said Karen Hale, a friend of the Carter family.
The district attorney’s office did not comment on the decision to charge the boy with murder. His detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Juvenile Court in San Diego.
Ryan Carter was an only child whose family moved to the mobile home park just outside El Cajon, a suburb east of San Diego, so they could send him to a private school and save money for his college tuition. His mother, Lisa, gave birth to him after 10 years of fertility treatments.
“Ryan’s birth saved his mother,” Hale said. “It brought joy and peace she had not known before.”
A straight-A student, Ryan read books on history and politics and wanted to be an engineer so he could build things, said his father, Glen.
He played defensive line for his football team, took guitar lessons and reveled in competition. “He beat me at chess when he was 6 years old,” Carter said.
The younger boy lived around the corner, and his behavior drew differing opinions from neighbors. “He never had a smile on his face. He didn’t look like he was happy,” Christina Powell, 42, said. “Every time he walked by, he’d give you a dirty look.”
Another neighbor, Theresa Waterhouse, called the 10-year-old a “sweet boy” who played video games with her grandchild. She said the boy’s mother had struggled with his emotional issues, sending him to doctors and counselors.
Fights among the neighborhood kids were not uncommon.
“They would have arguments, but what group of kids doesn’t have arguments?” Waterhouse said. “They punch, throw a rock and five minutes later they’re best friends again.”
Ryan, she said, was an exceptionally intelligent kid who always tried to defuse the situation. “He was good at it,” she said. “He’d talk like an adult.”
It’s not clear what caused Monday’s confrontation, which occurred outside the 10-year-old’s home. His mother was at the scene, according to some accounts by neighbors. “She was trying to calm him down, and Ryan was trying to help,” Waterhouse said.
The younger boy considered Ryan his best friend, and his mother treated Ryan like another son, according to Glen Carter. Ryan’s mother, Lisa Carter, in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, urged people not to judge her son’s younger friend, saying the 10-year-old was “not some monster.”
“Please don’t make it out that he was this terrible human being,” Lisa Carter said in the interview.
Glen Carter, holding back tears, said his son was always trying new things, a curious boy who liked everything except fighting. He was a gift, he said.
“There’s a giant hole where my heart’s supposed to be. He was the best son in the whole world,” he said.