Todd Henry's death in a Tyler classroom last September was a predictable horror story.
Cops and educators, judges and doctors, counselors and prison guards shuffled a throwaway kid named Byron through institution after institution – until he buried a butcher knife in the special education teacher's chest.
Even Henry saw it coming, saying weeks before he died that a kid in his class was going to kill someone.
Describing the voices that told him to kill, Byron told a psychologist last month: "People already knew that something was going to happen like this."
Long before the classroom killing, state and local agencies exhaustively documented the 17-year-old's descent into madness and violence.
At 9, Byron tried to stab his brother. At 13, he brought a knife to school, fought without provocation and choked a child on a school bus. At 14, he chased his brother with a meat cleaver. Months later, he stabbed his younger sister in the back with a steak knife.
In a Texas Youth Commission juvenile prison, Byron repeatedly attacked guards and other inmates and was caught with razor shards in his cell. After his arrest on murder charges at 16, Byron taunted juvenile jail guards, saying he could kill them if he felt like it. This spring, he was caught pocketing a plastic knife in a mental hospital.
Yet bureaucrat after bureaucrat seemed bent on making a deranged child someone else's problem.
Byron was pushed from school to treatment center to prison and back in a pattern that, on paper, looks like treatment by transfer.
Official fears about what Byron might be capable of went largely unshared until Henry died. Fragmented educational, mental health and justice agencies appeared incapable of communicating with one another, even after state psychologists declared Byron too sick for juvenile prison and unstable enough to warrant locking up every knife in his family's home.
"I'm not mad at Byron. I just want him put where he can't hurt anyone ever again," said Henry's widow, Jan. "I'm angry at the system. It failed Todd. The system put [Byron] in my husband's classroom. Todd didn't have a chance. And that can never, ever happen again."
Byron is jailed, awaiting pretrial hearings. His court-appointed lawyer, Jim Huggler of Tyler, echoes Jan Henry's assessment. He says Byron needs what he has never gotten – consistent mental health treatment.
"He hasn't just fallen through the cracks. The system keeps throwing him through the cracks," Huggler said. "Everything set up to prevent what happened to Mr. Henry was broken."
Experts say such disconnects are sadly common. The head of a Michigan juvenile agency recently told Congress that the problem of juvenile offenders getting little coordinated care until they commit horrific crimes is "the hidden secret that nobody wants to talk about."