The mother of the 9-year-old boy charged with setting a fire that killed five family members in Illinois defended her son, insisting he is “not a monster” who should be “thrown away like a piece of garbage.”
“Everyone is looking at him like he’s some kind of monster, but that’s not who he is,” Katie Alwood, 28, told CBS News of son Kyle, who she says has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD.
“He shouldn’t be thrown away like a piece of garbage.
“Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, but it’s still not something to throw his life away over,” she said, admitting that she had “fireproofed my entire house” because of her son’s history of starting blazes.
“I forgive him. I love him no matter what.”
Alwood told the told the Chicago Tribune that her dead relatives would want the boy “to get the help he needs.”
“Even though he lit the fire, I know his intentions were not to kill anybody. I know that,” she told the paper.
“He cries and cries and cries because he misses his family.
“Yes, he should be punished, but he needs mental help, that’s what he needs.”
The devastating fire, which took place in early April in a mobile home east of Peoria, claimed the lives of the 9-year-old’s two half-siblings, a cousin, his mother’s fiancé and his great-grandmother.
Altwood told CBS that she “stood at the window and I told my kids I was sorry I couldn’t save them” as the fire raged.
“There was a moment where you could hear them screaming. You could hear your fiancé, and then it ended,” Barnett said, choking up with tears.
“I don’t know what’s worse. Hearing him scream, or when it stopped.”
Her son was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson, officials confirmed this week. Altwood allowed reporters to identify him.
Woodford County State’s Attorney Gregory Minger said that because of his young age, the maximum sentence would be probation with options for counseling or treatment and no detention.
“All the way around, it was a tragedy,” he told the paper.
Critics say even charging someone so young could be damaging.
“Neuroscience, brain development, all of it points to the fact that young children shouldn’t be held culpable,” Elizabeth Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, told the paper.
However, the boy’s aunt, Samantha Alwood — whose 2-year-old daughter, Rose Alwood, was among the victims — said that if convicted, he should be sent to “juvie” and then prison when an adult.
“At the end of the day, whether he meant to or not, he knew what fire did,” she told CBS.