CRIME: Mother Knew Best

The first time Robert Coombes was accused of attacking a little girl, his mother believed he was innocent. After all, he was only 14. He was a little sullen, but a nice-looking boy with his dark curly hair. That was three years ago. The second time, when he attacked a seven-year-old girl in a cinder-strewn lot near his home in Maiden, Mass., his mother knew better.

She talked to parole officers, told them frankly that the boy was unbalanced, and begged them to keep him "somewhere away from general society." The state refused, gave him just the routine "training" school punishment.

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