Springfield High student charged with stabbing
Claims of drug deal gone bad disputed by teen
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A Springfield high school student has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after police say he admitted to slashing an older man in the face with a knife during what the victim claimed had been an attempt to purchase heroin from the teen which suddenly turned into a robbery.
Maliki Hazen-Hernandez, 17, pleaded innocent to two felony counts Friday afternoon before he was released on pre-trial conditions that include a 24-hour-a-day curfew expect for when he leaves his house to attend high school or goes anywhere under the direct supervision of his mother.
Kelly Lawrence was appointed guardian of her son during his arraignment Friday on felony charges
Shortly before 7 a.m. Thursday morning the putative victim, 35-year-old Christopher Merritt, showed police deep cuts to his face and arm, claiming that they had been inflicted by Hazen-Hernandez after Merritt said he had texted the teen to arrange the purchase of 20 bags of heroin, according to affidavits filed with the court.
Merritt, who was initially taken to the Springfield Hospital and later transferred to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for further treatment, said that instead of selling him the drugs, the teen showed up at the apartment on Main Street where Merritt had arranged to meet him and “sliced” him and threatened to kill him before stealing the $200 Merritt had brought to buy heroin from his wallet while he was down on the ground.
Slashing victim Christopher Merritt, 35, seen at an unrelated court hearing last week
Springfield Police Officer Steven Neily Sr. wrote that while police were investigating Merritt’s version of events they called ahead to the high school to warn the principal that they needed to come over and arrest Hazen-Hernandez urgently because he had been involved in a major incident.
School staff members arranged to have the teen stop by the guidance office where several detectives arrived and took him into custody without incident.
After cuffing Hazen-Hernandez, police began to search him and Officer Neily wrote that when he pulled a pencil out of one of the teen’s pockets, “(He) made a statement to the effect of a pencil being a weapon,” Neily wrote, adding, “Hazen-Hernandez seemed to be taking the situation very lightly.”
Detective Sgt. Patrick Call made a similar observation in his own report, recalling that “(Hazen-Hernandez) was making statements that a pencil was a weapon and that he could run from custody. He seemed playful and was making very light of this situation (he seemed) more concerned about who would see him. He was then escorted outside to a cruiser where he began to make statements such as ‘This is stupid. I was basically defending myself’,” the detective wrote in an affidavit filed with the court.
Police noticed a “small abrasion” above the teen’s left eye and noted “what appeared to be blood on the right upper thigh of Hazen-Hernandez’s pants.”
After Hazen-Hernandez was placed in the back of a police cruiser outside the high school he began complaining of a headache, numbness in his face and saying his left hand hurt, police recounted.
Police arranged to have a Springfield Ambulance crew respond to the police station to evaluate the teen for what appeared to be swelling to his head and, after that was done, the decision was made to take him to the emergency room at Springfield Hospital.
While Hazen-Hernandez was in the emergency room, Springfield Police Chief Doug Johnston seized the teen’s pants as evidence and, Detective Call wrote that Hazen-Hernandez and his mother, who had also arrived by that time, both agreed to his being interviewed at the hospital.
The detective wrote that Hazen-Hernandez subsequently told him that he’d arranged via text messages to meet up with Merritt that morning to “chill and smoke a joint” but he denied any narcotics were being bought or sold.
The teen continued that soon after he got there Merritt “diverted his attention to something in the window” and then out of the corner of his eye he saw a baseball bat coming “full force” at him, saying that it “hit in the left side of his head so hard he sees stars and falls to the ground,” Detective Call wrote.
The teen said that when he was on the ground Merritt allegedly started going through his pockets so he began to struggle and they ended up “punching each other” before Merritt picked him up by his pant legs and slammed him into the ground again.
“Hazen-Hernandez stated he gets back up and is hitting Merritt back in any location he can and then pulls a knife from his right pocket,” Call wrote, noting, “As he described that, he was waving the (imaginary) knife in front of him, he used his arms to reenact such, showing me that he was using a downward slashing motion. He advised he was not sure of the cuts caused but did not care because he was scared for his life and hit with a bat.”
The teen said the weapons ended up being dropped and that he and Merritt briefly traded more punches before he was able to leave the building and eventually made his way belatedly to school.
Police wrote that a search around Main Street where the attack reportedly occurred turned up a few droplets of blood but they failed to find any sort of weapon and Call wrote in his report that doctors discounted the likelihood of Hazen-Hernandez having been struck full force by a ball bat, saying injuries from that sort of attack “should be more severe” than what Hazen-Hernandez showed up with at the hospital.
The teen spent the night in the Springfield Jail prior to his arraignment on Friday afternoon in White River Junction where Judge Timothy Tomasi warned him to strictly observe his pre-trial conditions, saying “You are already pretty ratcheted up. The next stop is going to be jail.”
Hazen-Hernandez, who is a resident of the small town of Baltimore, which sits just to the northwest of North Springfield, does not have any prior criminal record but faces a maximum potential penalty of up to 30 years in prison if he were to be convicted of both of the felony charges now pending against him.
Defense Attorney Mike Shane confers with Hazen-Hernandez moments before the teen was released to his mother
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