Originally created 04/13/02

Teens under house arrest



BEAUFORT, S.C. - After one night in a juvenile detention center, two boys accused of punching an eighth-grader until he collapsed unconscious were allowed to return home under house arrest.

The boys, 13 and 14, were arrested this week and charged with second-degree lynching for hitting 14-year-old Francisco Belman in his chest during an initiation at H.E. McCracken Middle School.

Two weeks after his collapse, Francisco remained hospitalized at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. His condition was not available but had been reported as still critical Tuesday.

Assistant Solicitor Kelly Walker said she recommended house arrest because the crimes do not meet state criteria required to hold the boys at a detention facility until trial.

"What they've been charged with doesn't fall under 'violent crimes"' as defined by South Carolina law, she said. "House arrest means they have to remain at their house, supervised by their parents or guardians, and are not allowed to leave their home."

The detention hearing, held in Family Court in Beaufort, was only to decide where the boys should be kept until trial. No trial date has been set.

The boys attended the hearing with their parents and lawyers. They later appeared for an expulsion hearing at the Beaufort County School District office. They had been suspended since the first school day after the March 28 incident.

Bluffton police said the beating was apparently part of a "new school" initiation because Francisco had just transferred to McCracken from Hilton Head Middle School.

The boys wanted to be friends and Francisco was apparently willing to be struck in the chest to belong to the boys' group, police said.

He was hit six times before he went into cardiac arrest. Emergency crews restarted his heart.