Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 14, 1959
January 14, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Red Tape Frequently Chokes Logic, Justice
Postscript to a tragedy;
Two and a half years ago, a young Norwalk housewife returned from the home of a neighbor to find her husband sprawled dying across his bed. He had been shot through the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
There was no mystery to the fatal shooting. Within minutes after they arrived at the scene, County Sheriff's Department detectives had three suspects in custody, and detailed confessions from each.
And it was those confessions which turned the killing into one of the most bizarre tragedies ever to take place in Southern California.
The story was headlines, not only here, but all across the nation.
The persons who "plotted" to shoot the 31-year-old steelworker were his own three sons -- ages 10, 9 and 7. The 7-year-old actually pulled the trigger.
Although it's off the front pages now, the story's not over.
Yesterday I was visited by the mother of the three boys. I'm not going to mention her name, or the names of her children. The family is still living in Southern California -- in another neighborhood now, where people don't know their story.
But I am going to tell a few of the astounding facts which she related to me concerning the present plight of the family.
Immediately following the shooting, the boys were made wards of Juvenile Court. But eventually the mother was able to get all of them back home on probation.
By all rights, the family should be receiving nearly $220 a month in Social Security benefits. The woman's deceased husband paid for this insurance, just like millions of others are paying for it, every day.
But on a very very questionable technicality, the family is not getting the full amount due.
At present the widow is receiving only $118 a month.
Shares for the three boys, who even today don't fully understand the consequences of their act, have been withheld.
The reasoning of the Social Security office:
Because the children were never charged with a crime, they can't be cleared. That apparently, is the logic of the Social Security office.
Pride of the Individual
The boys' mother struggled along as long as she could without additional assistance. Finally, last year, she broke down and applied for state aid. Today she gets it -- an additional $153 a month.
But it's charity. Money she doesn't want. Combined with the $118 Social Security check, it gives her $271 a month.
But she'd rather settle for the $220, and get her family's name off the charity roles.
"I could supplement the $220 by doing some work," she told me. "Baby-sitting. Any kind of work. I'm not lazy. But as a charity case, I'm not allowed to.
"What I'm fighting for, actually, is less money that I'm getting now. But," she added, "at least it's money that's rightfully mine."