- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — Charges could be filed against family members of an 11-year-old boy apparently killed by a registered sex offender who had befriended the family, prosecutors said.

The charges could include child abuse and neglect, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state’s attorney’s office.

Miss Burns said the probe into child abuse and neglect will be separate from the homicide investigation.

A friend of the family, Melvin L. Jones Jr., 52, has been charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Irvin Harris.

The child was reported missing over the weekend, and his body was found Monday on a golf course near his home.

Irvin’s mother, Shanda Harris, said she allowed Jones to be around her children and grandchildren even though she knew Jones was a convicted sex offender.

Bertha Reid, Irvin’s grandmother, said she was suspicious because Jones was frequently around the children and warned Harris.

“I told her I thought something was wrong,” Miss Reid, 59, told the Baltimore Sun. “I told her when I first met him. She had a drug problem, so she couldn’t see.”

Harris, who has a history of heroin addiction, was found guilty last month in District Court of petty theft and put on yearlong probation, the latest in a long string of legal problems.

Harris pleaded guilty in April 1999 to a drug charge and was sentenced to five years in prison.

All but a day or two of the sentence was suspended, and she was given three years of unsupervised probation.

Several forgery, theft, open container and disorderly conduct charges also have been filed against her but not pursued by prosecutors, court records show.

Harris also has been ordered to pay delinquent insurance bills in 2000 and utility bills in 2004, court records show.

Irvin’s father, meanwhile, has been in prison for murder for the past eight years.

Harris said Monday that she found out about a year ago from her drug treatment counselors that Jones was a registered sex offender.

But she said that when she confronted him about it, he told her he had engaged in consensual touching and had not served any jail time for the crime.

Elizabeth Bartholomew, spokeswoman for the state Division of Parole and Probation, said sex offenders often seek out single mothers.

“They justify their behavior by saying that they’re doing the woman a favor by helping them out,” Miss Bartholomew said.

Miss Bartholomew also defended her office’s handling of the case.

“Do I think the agents were doing everything possible to make sure he was complying with his special conditions? Absolutely,” Miss Bartholomew said.

“Could they have done more if they had more time and fewer offenders in their caseloads? Absolutely.”

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