`Everyone's Little Brother' -- Fatally Beaten Boy, 13, Mourned By His Family, Friends On Street
SILVERDALE, Kitsap County - There are sobering remnants of the beating that killed 13-year-old Jerry Lee Wager: a darkened hand print on the wall, a trickle of dried blood trailing across the sidewalk into the dirt.
Jerry was beaten to death at Fairview Junior High in Silverdale Friday night, allegedly by at least two older males who had promised to take him to the Kitsap County Fair.
"At one point, Jerry asked (a teenage girl in the group) to get them to stop because he felt . . . they were going to kill him," Kitsap County Sheriff Pat Jones said yesterday.
But no one helped Jerry. Instead, his body was dragged into bushes and the drunken group then went to the fair.
To a cluster of young friends, who, like Jerry, were dished out rough lives; to the staff at the junior high, and to his family, there is more to the boy than the tragic circumstances of his death.
"He was like everyone's little brother," said a friend, Crystal, 15. "He had a big heart for a little guy."
His father, Fred "Brick" Wager, said his son began running away this year, but blamed the behavior on earlier childhood trauma.
When in another relative's care, the 6-year-old boy was mentally and physically abused, said Wager, who said he got custody of his two children after divorcing his wife in 1989.
But by the time Jerry moved into Wager's home, the young boy was suicidal, his father said.
Jerry was treated at a Kirkland psychiatric hospital and prescribed Prozac, Wager said. After about a month, he was able to return home.
Within a few months, the youth was out of control. Jerry was placed with foster parents for eight months. When his grades and emotional state stabilized, he returned to his father's home last fall and remained most of the school year. Jerry would leave for a day or overnight, always returning, his father said.
Jerry left for good on July 18. His worried father took out an ad in the local paper and handed out copies on the ferry to Seattle. Youths returning to Bremerton recognized the boy as T.G. Hampton - a name swiped from after-school cartoons - a kid who hung out at a Bremerton espresso place, Caffee Zzoo.
Two weeks after he bolted, Fred Wager had found his son, but there was nothing he or police could do to make the boy stay home. Running away is not illegal..
The man had authorities take his son to a full-time residential care center in Silverdale, but Jerry could come and go at will; that same night the boy walked out.
After he left his father's home, Jerry apparently was embraced by a group of youths who call themselves "The Bugs Bunny Folks." They're not a gang, kids gathered at a laundromat dubbed "Punk Palace" insist; Sheriff Jones concurs. The "family" provides food, shelter, clothing and support for runaways and throwaways. It was there Jerry met his 12-year-old girlfriend. The girl is now three months pregnant and among a few dozen teary-eyed friends. In the past three weeks, Jerry spent most of his time downtown with his skateboard.
All yesterday, the teens played Guns 'N Roses and Soundgarden songs on the jukebox, in memory of the slain skater. They've begun a mural in his memory.
"Tell the people who killed him, everyone down here misses him," said another Bremerton friend, Alexzandria.
Two suspects arrested in connection with Jerry's death - a 17-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl - were members of the "family."
A 26-year-old man suspected of carrying out most of the beating had been released from jail less than two weeks earlier, said Jones. The sheriff said the man, a career criminal, claimed to be a gang member and decided to "jump in" Jerry with a savage beating that quickly got out of hand.
The older suspect was booted from the fair Thursday night for stirring up trouble; a deputy remembered him and denied his group entry Friday night. Jones said the girl told police she almost told the deputy about the fatal beating then.
Police didn't learn about it until later Friday, when the group - their clothes allegedly stained by Jerry's blood - returned to Bremerton and reportedly talked about his death.
Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.