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April 23, 2014

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Mentally disabled teen still suffering emotional effects of attack, mother says

Teens who robbed him will get counseling and are placed on probation

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Tonia Bissell sits with her son Jeffrey Ford in their Henderson home Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. Ford was the victim of a vicious beating and robbery by two other teens last September.

The mother of a mentally disabled teen who was beaten and robbed says his attackers — boys ages 14 and 15 — stole more than his hat, Converse shoes and BlackBerry.

They took away her son’s confidence, too.

“After the attack, he didn’t want to go to school,” Tonia Bissell said. “He didn’t want to be in crowds.”

Her son, 16-year-old Jeffrey Ford, is now in counseling. At the request of a judge, Ford’s attackers, now considered juvenile criminals, also will undergo counseling.

On Thursday, Family Court Judge William Voy sentenced the oldest boy — who was labeled by prosecutors as the “aggressor” in the incident — to a stay at Spring Mountain Youth Camp and drug counseling, followed by 18 months of probation and 200 hours of community service.

At a separate sentencing hearing last week, the younger boy was put on probation for a year and ordered to wear an ankle-bracelet monitor, undergo counseling and perform community service, said Brigid Duffy, a Clark County chief deputy district attorney, who oversees the juvenile division.

The attack happened Sept. 28 at a shopping center near Green Valley Parkway and Warm Springs Road. Henderson Police said the boys grabbed Ford when he was standing between two businesses, punched him in the face and threatened him before taking his shoes, cellphone and hat.

With the help of witnesses, detectives tracked down and arrested the two boys, who had run to a nearby apartment complex, police said.

The boys pleaded guilty to an undisclosed charge. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office cannot release information about juvenile charges unless a judge discusses it in open court, Duffy said. On Thursday, Voy did not mention the charge.

Voy called the crime a “predatory-type attack” while issuing the older boy’s sentence.

“It’s very concerning to say the least,” he said.

Ford, a junior at Del Sol High School, was deprived of oxygen at birth, which caused some developmental delays, Bissell said. Although Ford has basic life skills, his mental capacity is several years younger than his actual age, she said.

On that September day, Ford asked to take a walk. The family had just moved into the neighborhood seven days earlier, and Ford was determined to get a job, Bissell said. Ford wanted to pick up job applications.

He never had the chance. Instead, Bissell received a call indicating Ford had been hurt.

“That’s the worst call you can get,” Bissell said.

Bissell arrived to find her son sporting a fat lip and bloody face.

“He was really hysterical,” Bissell said. “All he could think about was his shoes and his phone. He was very traumatized.”

The trauma led to Ford being jumpy anytime a family member rounded a corner in their home. He also harbored anger about the ordeal.

Four days after the attack, Ford punched a wall under a windowsill, breaking his right hand, Bissell said. Ford is still in a cast.

This isn’t the first time Ford has experienced a form of bullying, Bissell said. Her son believes everyone is good and, because of his disability, is gullible to a fault.

“He thinks they’re his friends,” Bissell said. “That’s the type of mentality he has.”

The cruelness of the attack still bothers her, but Bissell said she also felt sorrow for the attackers and their families. That’s why, on Thursday, she stood before the judge and, amid tears, proclaimed she refused to allow her son to “be a victim forever.”

“I’m just hoping that these boys are learning from what they have caused everyone,” she said.

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