Voices and Silence

It was no secret that Jason Molacek heard voices telling him to murder. Cops, counselors, his parents--they all knew. So why didn't anyone stop him before he shot his mom to death?

In addition to children dumped on the legal system by health insurance companies, he says, probation gets kids no one wants to treat. "You have to work to get them to show. You can't close their cases out if they refuse to show up. A lot of [providers] don't want to work with kids tagged as delinquent--they're afraid."

In the last two years, however, Belton's budget--part of the corrections system, which falls under the umbrella of the state Health and Human Services budget--has been slashed by the administration of Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Last year Belton lost 10 percent of his staff; this year, the overall budget was reduced another 7 to 8 percent. The budget for the County Home School, the long-term juvenile detention facility (and a different department), was cut even more drastically. Belton won't comment, but others in the juvenile court system say cost is increasingly a factor in considering a child's placement.

According to Richard Molacek's testimony, it was less than three weeks before Jason's 19th birthday when his son's probation officer told the family he would be released. Both father and son were upset that there wasn't enough time to begin the gradual re-acclimation to the home that was supposed to happen over a period of months.

Molacek went home on a Saturday, scared. He enrolled in an alternative high school and started seeing a counselor at Health Partners.

He chafed at his parents' restrictions, though. His mother wanted him home by 9:00 at night, and he was given an allowance of just $15 a week. He stole $140. When his parents confronted him, Jason told them the money was to pay off drug dealers he owed from before going to Bar None. In fact, he had hooked back up with a boy he used to get stoned with and had started smoking "nugs," or high-grade marijuana, even though he was taking five psychiatric drugs.

In early May, Cheryl Molacek called the counselor to report finding a pipe in Jason's room. The counselor suggested that he try deep breathing to help reduce stress, or some positive distractions such as humming his favorite song. A referral was made to "chemical health," where a counselor suggested Jason start going to AA or NA.

On May 29, Jason saw the counselor again. He hadn't been smoking pot, he said, but he hadn't gone to any meetings. "It was agreed upon at this time that the patient would come back [on an] as-needed basis."

To the contrary, by the first week of June, Molacek was smoking so much he "became like a zombie, using bowl after bowl with a pipe and a joint," he told Malmquist. "Things didn't seem real to me anymore...my reality kept slipping away." He started to hear voices again. This time they said: "It has to be done."

"The thought about shooting his parents was described as coming into his head for a split second," the psychiatrist reported, "and then he would get into a 'different state of mind,' but he started to think about it more and more 'and then it was just like, I'm actually gonna do this.' The thought had been coming in and out of his head for the past two days."

On Friday, June 9, Molacek graduated from high school. The next day, the family held a big party in his honor. Jason helped his mother get ready, moving an old dishwasher into the family van. That Sunday, Jason began to hear voices saying, "Do it!" over and over. That night he and his father watched TV together and talked until about 10 o'clock. There was no hint, Richard Molacek would later insist to police, that anything was amiss.

T HE COURT: Have you ever seen in your practice or in the literature a case where a person who ultimately killed somebody had announced specifically an intention or impulses to do that over a period of time as long and as repeatedly as in this record?

THE WITNESS: Not this long. I've seen it in some cases for briefer periods where they are having psychotic episodes and then it remits and it recurs, but not for this length of time where it comes and goes.

--Judge Jack Nordby questioning Dr. Carl Malmquist in court

Who is really to blame in the death of Cheryl Molacek? Jason Molacek pulled the trigger on the gun, certainly.

However, consider this: When an airplane goes down, we don't just look for the jackscrew or gasket that failed, but the maintenance system that allowed that failure to go undetected. If someone dies in a convenience store heist, it's not just the trigger-puller who can be charged with murder; the getaway driver can be held liable as well. If a drunk driver kills someone, the bar that served him his last shots can be found negligent.

Certainly Jason Molacek should not have been smoking marijuana while taking powerful psychiatric drugs, and his parents might have done well to get rid of the weapons in their house. (Richard Molacek did not return phone calls for this article.) But otherwise, the public record suggests there is both plenty of blame to be spread around and no one to hold responsible.

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