Like so many other D.C. youths, Alexis Mattocks grew up before her time.
Arrested in 2006 at age 15 on charges of sexual solicitation and possession of crack cocaine, she used an adult alias to stay out of juvenile detention, according to court records.
Eventually committed to the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, she had a child with an older man who had a history of armed robbery and drug dealing, records show.
Then, reeling from the death of her drug-addicted mother, one day last year she walked away from a DYRS group home in Southeast and ended up in North Carolina with that same man.
Now, just weeks after her 21st birthday, Ms. Mattocks faces first-degree murder charges in North Carolina that could lead to the death penalty if she is convicted.
She and Cedric Theodis Hobbs Jr., now 30, were recently indicted in Cumberland County, N.C., on charges of armed robbery, murder and conspiracy in the killing of a pawnshop clerk in November, District Attorney William West said.
The couple had their 9-month-old baby girl with them at the time, according to police, before fleeing to the District in a car they stole from the victim, Kyle Harris, a 19-year-old college student who worked weekends at the pawnshop. Police said the murder weapon, a silver semi-automatic handgun, was the same one used to kill 22-year-old Rondriako Burnett earlier in the day in McDuffie County, Ga.
Both victims were shot in the face.
Hobbs, who allegedly stole the gun from an uncle, has confessed to both killings, police said.
“I know I never getting out,” Ms. Mattocks said when the couple were arrested at about midnight Nov. 6, 2010, in the 800 block of Bladensburg Road Northeast, court records show. “Let her go, she had nothing to do with it,” Hobbs said, according to a police affidavit.
The Mattocks case surfaces as DYRS is plagued by persistent reports of violence perpetrated by or against youths committed to its custody. The Washington Times reported last November that 1 in 5 homicides in the District during a one-year period involved a DYRS youth as either a victim or a suspect.
On its face, the Mattocks case looks like a wanton crime spree, or that of a confused young woman caught in the wrong place and time.
But a review of court records and interviews with DYRS employees, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized, raise questions about the agency’s limitations when drugs are part of the problem.
While Ms. Mattocks’ decisions might have been inevitable given her early exposure and addiction to drugs, her plight suggests that DYRS needs to confront its inability to provide adequate treatment or toughen its response to recidivism.
D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat who is chairman of the committee that oversees DYRS, has advocated for drug and alcohol treatment for years. This year, he directed the agency to invest $1 million to develop a treatment program because he said it did not “have the capacity to address substance and alcohol abuse in youth and, to an extent, mental health issues.”
The agency has made little progress, Mr. Graham said, declining to discuss the Mattocks case.
Christopher Shorter, chief of staff to DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley, did not return calls or emails.
A savvy teenager
Sources described Ms. Mattocks as a savvy teenager who was adept at using aliases to avoid the juvenile justice system. Eventually discovered to be a minor and a repeat offender, she was committed to DYRS around 2009 and bounced from inpatient to outpatient drug programs.
Though most DYRS youths use marijuana and alcohol to dull their pain, Ms. Mattocks was into hard drugs: crack, PCP and heroin, sources said.
But aside from a tattoo that read “Sexy” and another that read “Cedric” in her mug shot, she looks almost scholarly, with her boyish Afro and black-rimmed glasses.
Earlier this year, The Times visited numerous residences where, according to court records, she used to live, and was unable to find anyone who knew or even recognized her.
DYRS sources said she had only two people in her life: her mother and Hobbs, both drug abusers, the sources said.
“Damaged young people turn into damaged adults,” one source said. “You attract what you are.”
Yet Ms. Mattocks and Hobbs loved each other and their daughter the best they knew how. “They just had no frame of reference for what constitutes a healthy family,” a source said.
Court records show that Hobbs pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 1998, received a suspended sentence, then pleaded to a second robbery charge for which he served seven months in prison. In 2005, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison for attempted distribution of cocaine, records show.
He was arrested three more times from 2008 to 2010, according to records, for shoplifting, violating probation and a felony that was dismissed.
A traumatic childhood
Despite a traumatic childhood, including homelessness and time living in a shelter, Ms. Mattocks developed a love of photography and a desire to make it on her own, sources said. When not in a drug treatment program, she lived with her mother, they said, but aspired to an independent-living program, which required her to get sober while living in a group home.
She recently was enrolled in a transition school and was working on her GED, the sources said. When her mother died, they said, she turned to drugs.
The DYRS sources acknowledged that Ms. Mattocks tested positive for drugs before leaving the group home but defended the decision not to pull her from the home.
“It’s tricky,” one source said. “Relapse is part of treatment and recovery. These people are sick. We don’t want to lock them up for being ill.”
It is unclear how Ms. Mattocks made it to North Carolina or how long she was reunited with Hobbs before the killings occurred. Her role in the crimes also is unclear.
“I’m sure it was a drug-abusing decision made under the influence and in the pursuit of more drugs,” one DYRS source said.
Mr. West, the Cumberland County district attorney, said the case against Ms. Mattocks will go through an administrative process in Superior Court that could take four to six months. Then, a plea will be entered and a trial date set, he said.
Meanwhile, a judge will hold a hearing within the next two months to decide whether the case qualifies as a capital murder case, which could result in the death penalty. Now that she is 21, Ms. Mattocks’ DYRS commitment likely has ended, sources said, leaving her fate in the hands of a North Carolina jury.
“There’s nothing we can do now,” one DYRS source said. “We have to let the adult system handle her.”