RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A teenager charged in the killing of an 8-year-old boy and the assault of the boy's sister carried the bloodied girl home and blamed someone else for the attack, the siblings' mother said Monday.
The teenager has been charged with the murder and strangulation of the little boy, who is being hailed by the community for apparently trying to protect his sister when he was killed.
"As soon as he could talk, I told (him) he's the man of the house," his mother told The Associated Press, noting that the boy had grown up without a father. "That's what he did. He's a hero."
She said she was sitting outside her Richmond home Thursday when a 16-year-old neighbor walked into the front yard carrying her daughter, weeping and wearing only a T-shirt, on his back. The teenager, who is black, told her a white man had attacked the girl. The girl also initially blamed a white man and said he had raped her.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault and is not naming the girl, the mother or her brother.
Police said the teen intimidated the girl into backing his concocted story. He had a brief court appearance Monday and a juvenile court judge ordered him to remain in custody and set another hearing for May 20.
He has not been charged with sexual assault. His name was withheld by police because of his age.
Police have released few details of the attack, saying only that the boy suffered severe head trauma.
His mother, sitting on the front steps of her home, said her son was a second-grader and "a mama's boy" who didn't talk much to other people. He was small for his age, but his tiny stature masked a fighting spirit, she said.
A few feet away in the front yard, a memorial carried that message, saying in part: "A Real Hero Lived, Fought and Died Here." The wooden sign was draped with the boy's parka, surrounded by stuffed animals and toys.
His mother said her son had open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old and doctors said he wasn't going to make it.
Neighbor Andrew Patillo, said the boy looked more like he was 4 or 5 years old.
"He had a big heart to be that small," Patillo said.
The mother said she did not know the teenager accused of attacking her children. Her family was relatively new to the neighborhood, she said.
She then rose from the concrete steps to get ready to go view her son's body and shared a final thought: "He's right here in my heart and super strong."
Associated Press Writer John Raby in Charleston, W.Va., contributed to this report.