Eureka, I.L. (CBS) – For the first time, we are hearing from the family of a 9-year-old boy accused of intentionally setting a fire to the family home. Katie Alwood fought back tears as she spoke about her son, Kyle. He was charged this week with five counts of first-degree murder, killing five people one night in April. Alwood allowed CBS News to disclose his name and picture.
“Everyone is looking at him like he’s some kind of monster, but that’s not who he is,” Alwood told CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett, adding, “People make mistakes, and that’s what this is. Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, but it’s still not something to throw his life away over.”
The victims are all members of the family: Alwood’s other children, Daemeon and Ariel; her grandmother, Kathryn; her fiancé, Jason Wall; and her niece, Rose. Alwood was in the home when the fire broke out when most of the victims were sleeping, but was only able to save herself.
“I stood at the window and I told my kids I was sorry I couldn’t save them. Mommy was right here and I loved them. You know, so, at least hopefully they heard that. I told Jason I loved him… And then something told me that they’re gone,” Alwood said.
“So there was a moment where you could hear them screaming. You could hear your fiancé, and then it ended,” Barnett said.
“I don’t know what’s worse. Hearing him scream, or when it stopped,” Alwood said, choking up with tears.
Alwood said her son had been recently diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, ADHD, and bipolar disorder, and that he is a loving son who deserves a second chance.
We walked with Alwood through her sister Samantha Alwood’s home next door. Samantha was Rose’s mother.
“She got me out of bed. She made my days better. And it hurts her not being here,” Samantha said.
Unlike her sister, Samantha wants her nephew, Kyle, to face a strict punishment.
“I think he should go somewhere until he’s legal age to go to juvie. Then I think he should go to juvie. And then from juvie to prison. Because at the end of the day, whether he meant to or not, he knew what fire did,” Samantha said.
Gloria Browne-Marshall, a constitutional law professor at John Jay College, said the murder charge on a child is an abuse of power by the prosecutor.
“It’s difficult to understand how a 9-year-old would have the state of mind to know that their action would result in a death,” Browne-Marshall said.
Alwood said her son deserves to pay for his alleged actions but said the family has already suffered enough.
“I did lose, you know, my family too. But I forgive him. I love him no matter what,” Alwood said.
The local prosecutor told us he defends his decision to file murder charges, but Kyle is only expected to face probation. Alwood hopes the judge takes into consideration Kyle’s mental state and the person she said he is. He’ll be in court on October 21.