Neglected child now a man in turmoil

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It was easy to see the wounds on Cathryn Brace Farrar and her friend George William "Billy" Wahl.

They had been stabbed repeatedly, long after either could have resisted. There was blood all over the carpet and walls of the Westminster apartment.

It is not so easy to see the wounds on Jason Aaron DeLong, emotional wounds that may have led him to kill his mother, Cathryn Farrar, last July 29.

Jason, 19, and his girlfriend, Sara Elizabeth Citroni, 18, have been in the Carroll County jail since August, charged with first-degree murder.

Today, they are to appear in a Carroll courtroom for pre-trial motions. According to court officials, Sara is expected to take a plea bargain. Sara, by most accounts, had an average, happy childhood until her mother died of cancer in 1992.

But defense attorneys will use the hearing to introduce their reasons for saying that Jason is not guilty by reason of insanity. They will say Ms. Farrar neglected her son and blocked attempts to help him, that he rarely had a stable home life and was kept from associating with other children.

"This is one whacked-out kid," says his Baltimore attorney, Luther C. West.

Jason DeLong has refused requests for interviews.

Police will not say what they believe triggered the attack, but in the months leading up to the slayings, Jason alternated between living at his mother's apartment and living on the streets for days at a time. Neighbors often heard them quarrel.

Jason apparently couldn't live with his mother and couldn't stay away.

Barring an unexpected plea bargain for Jason, a jury will have to decide whether Jason's upbringing is an acceptable reason for him to have stabbed his mentally ill mother 80 times and her friend more than 40.

Jason's parents are Donald E. DeLong, a GI who married the girl he had gotten pregnant, and Cathryn Brace DeLong, an Army brat who grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., and had a previous marriage that ended before she was 17. Jason was born Dec. 13, 1974, in the military hospital at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Right after they were married, the couple, broke, was taken in by Malcom Shaw, a friend of Donald DeLong's from the Army who lived in Fayetteville. Much of this account of Jason's childhood is based on court records and Mr. Shaw's observations.

Many who could lend another perspective -- Donald DeLong; Cathryn DeLong's sisters, Stayce Cashion and Patricia DuVall; her mother, Lois Brace; and Steve Shampine, who lived with Cathryn DeLong for two or three years after her marriage to Donald DeLong broke up -- would not be be interviewed on the record.

When Jason was born, Mr. DeLong had been discharged and the couple rented a house near Mr. Shaw in Fayetteville. The couple routinely quarreled, neighbors and friends said.

Mrs. DeLong slept far into the afternoon, spent a lot of time with her Ouija board and ignored the baby. Sometimes she fed Jason a little rice. Sometimes she didn't feed him. From the house across the street, Mr. Shaw could hear Jason crying.

One afternoon, Mr. Shaw pounded on the door until Cathryn DeLong got up and let him in. Cats roamed the house, and cat feces lay on the floor. Jason was in his crib, surrounded by his own waste.

Mr. Shaw called the Cumberland County (N.C.) Department of Social Services. "I told Don I had done it," he said. "Friend or no friend, there was a little child over there."

The Social Services worker who investigated came down on Donald DeLong for failing to compel his wife to take care of the baby.

Custody battle

Donald and Cathryn DeLong quarreled, separated, reconciled, then separated permanently in 1976. In the files of the custody battle that followed is a letter by June Edmonds, another social worker who had reviewed the records:

"At 18 months, Jason was . . . developmentally retarded in that he was not walking nor trying to speak."

After the couple's last separation, Cathryn and Jason began living with Mr. Shampine, recently released from prison. Mr. DeLong moved back in with Mr. Shaw and his wife.

At 2 years old, all Jason could do was hop around the floor and make grunting noises. "I think he picked them up from the dog," Mr. Shaw said. "My son [born in 1976] walked and talked before Jason did."

The Cumberland County District Court, deciding Jason had been neglected by his mother, transferred custody to the county Department of Social Services. But Jason was never physically taken from her home.

Later, tests would show that Jason's intelligence was normal but, because of neglect, he functioned below the level of played-with, loved and cared-for children of his age.

Move to Florida

Mr. Shampine's interference with Mr. DeLong's attempts to see his son and Jason's slow development finally pushed Mr. DeLong to act, Mr. Shaw said: "I feel like Don thought he was the only hope for Jason."

On Nov. 23, 1980, Jason's father came crying to his estranged wife's house and asked if he could take his son to a birthday party.

Instead, Donald DeLong took the boy to South Florida.

"At the time [Mr. DeLong] brought Jason to Florida, Jason was suffering from cigarette burns on his buttocks," says a report by Mr. DeLong's attorneys in the custody case.

In Florida, Mr. DeLong enrolled Jason, 6, in kindergarten. Jason had weekly counseling, began to interact with neighborhood kids and, according to a social worker there, lived "in a warm, caring family situation."

In 1981, Mr. DeLong sought a divorce so he could remarry.

When Cathryn DeLong learned where he was, she and Mr. Shampine went to Florida and tried -- but failed -- to snatch Jason as he walked to his day-care center, court records say.

Mr. DeLong obtained temporary custody and a Florida court set a custody hearing for November 1982. Cathryn DeLong didn't wait. Granted a brief visit with Jason, she took him back to North Carolina.

In the next few months she took Jason from Fayetteville to her father's house in suburban Washington, then back to Fayetteville.

She did not enroll Jason in school until she returned to Fayetteville in March 1983. Later that month, she married Richard V. Farrar, another GI.

In April 1983, Cumberland County District Court Judge Lacy S. Hair awarded temporary custody to Jason's mother. She was about a month pregnant with Mr. Farrar's child when Judge Hair finalized the custody order in August.

Mental decline

As the months went by, the Farrars' family life seemed to be stabilizing. He was working, and Mrs. Farrar was taking better care of Jason. According to records, Jason was performing at or above his grade level.

It all fell apart after Charlie Farrar was born dead on March 25, 1984 -- strangled by his umbilical cord. Richard Farrar walked out a few months later, as his wife slipped into a mental decline from which she never recovered, psychological records and family members say.

In 1990, Mrs. Farrar and Jason moved to Westminster, where her sister, Patricia DuVall, lives.

Jason came to the attention of the Carroll County Department of Social Services, as his mother began to spend more time in hospitals. She heard threatening voices; she tried to commit suicide. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

A social services worker contacted Mr. DeLong in South Florida, who agreed to take his son.

Foster family

Jason moved in with his father's family, entered school and got a part-time job bagging groceries. But there were clashes, often over Jason's friends.

After several incidents, Mr. and Mrs. DeLong concluded that in Maryland, he might get help they could not afford.

Jason returned in July 1992. He lived with a foster family near Taneytown, then was placed at a group home in Randallstown.

When he turned 18, Jason went back to Westminster to live with his mother on Bishop's Garth.

He enrolled in special education at Francis Scott Key High School, which he attended from March to June 1993.

Holly Galandak, a student and teacher's assistant in Jason's horticulture class and a 1994 FSK graduate, said, "I think he was just a hurt little boy."

But he also told her he was in some kind of a cult. He wore black combat boots: "They're good for squishing bugs." And she said the way he laughed scared her.

Ron -- who asked that his last name not be used -- was working at McDonald's in Taneytown one snowy day early in 1993 when Jason came in, wearing just a T-shirt and jeans. He told Ron his mother had kicked him out. He had walked the 11 miles from Westminster, hoping to stay with his former foster parents.

Jason spent the night with Ron's grandparents but returned to his mother after a few days.

Jason met Sara Citroni at Cranberry Mall a week before the stabbings. He was attracted to her shaved head; she bought him a pair of combat boots.

Sara's life

Sara had a much more ordinary childhood than Jason. At Franklin High School, she was in the international club, sang in the concert choir, played junior varsity soccer and belonged to Students Against Drunk Driving.

Those who know her say her personality, and her circle of friends, changed after her mother got cancer. Rosemary Citroni died in October 1992.

As Jason's attorney tells it, Sara and Jason were an explosive combination. She was an angry runaway. He was an abandoned, abused and shy follower starved for affection.

After her release from Springfield Hospital Center in June 1991, Cathryn Farrar, in contrast to her old habit of resisting counseling and medication ordered by doctors, had kept 21 monthly appointments with county Health Department counselors.

She never made it to the 22nd -- the counselor noted in her file, "The patient did not keep the appointment today for an unknown reason."

That was on Aug. 3, 1993.

Police had discovered her body the day before.

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