A 9-year-old Illinois boy was charged with five counts of murder in the deaths of his cousin, two half-siblings, great grandmother and mother’s fiance after authorities alleged he intentionally set the family's mobile home alight.
But his grieving mom says it was all “a terrible mistake” and people should “pray” for -- not condemn -- the boy she says is mentally ill.
Katie Alwood’s son became a ward of the state after investigators concluded he intentionally set fire to his family’s home in Goodfield on April 6. The boy is not being identified because he is being tried as a juvenile; however, the other family members have been identified in multiple reports.
The 9-year-old was charged this week with five counts of murder, two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson in the fire, which resulted in the deaths of Kathryn Murray, 69; Jason Wall, 34; Rose Alwood, 2; Daemeon Wall, 2; and Ariel Wall, 1.
“He made a terrible mistake,” Alwood, 28, told the Chicago Tribune after Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger announced the charges against her son. “He’s a child.”
Alwood said she wished people would “pray that he gets the help he needs” and claimed he suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD.
“Even though he lit the fire, I know his intentions were not to kill anybody,” she continued. “I know that. He cries and cries and cries because he misses his family.”
Alwood said she believes her son has “a good heart” and helped in raising his two half-siblings, Daemeon and Ariel.
“Yes, he should be punished, but he needs mental help, that’s what he needs.”
Investigators said the fire began around 11 p.m. Within minutes of firefighters responding to the scene, the home was engulfed in flames. Minger said he decided to charge the boy after reading through various authoritative reports about the fire numerous times. Officials have yet to release details about how the fire was started.
If convicted of murder, the child could be placed on probation for at least five years, but not beyond the age of 21. Minger said that therapy and counseling for the boy would be likely as well.
Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services reportedly has had an extensive history with Alwood’s family. According to the Tribune, they made contact with the family 13 times prior to the fatal fire.
Since the fire, he has been placed in a foster home.
Fox News’ Robert Gearty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.